“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Lewis Stevenson
Since it is harvest time and you could be overwhelmed with potatoes, onions, parsley, herbs, beets, leeks and more. What do you do to store them?
It takes a little experimenting to know what stores best. You have to consider temperature and humidity and what works well for each crop. Do they need to be cool and dry? Or dry and warm?
Most vegetables store well cold at 32-38 degrees. Exceptions are sweet potatoes, the warmer the better; pumpkins; and winter squash, after a week or two of curing. Root vegetables and potatoes like humidity around 90%. Onions, garlic, and winter squash like it dry. Never store onions with potatoes. Home refrigerators are usually about 40 degrees and dry with humidity around 50% to 60%.
Leave carrots, beets, rutabagas, parsnips, and turnips in the ground as long as possible. When you do dig them, trim off the tops as short as possible then store them in the refrigerator. They seem to keep better in a plastic bag with plenty of holes to keep them from rotting. If potatoes start sprouting, it means the temperature is too high.
Sweet potatoes need special treatments. After harvesting, they need to cure to firm up their skin. They need to be kept at 80 degrees for 5-10 days. This may sound impossible but if you put them in a small room with a small space heater, it works. After curing, I have found if I put them in a basket on top of my refrigerator they will stay fresh until spring when they may start to sprout. You can then cut the slips and plant them again in mid-June.
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Beets last about one to three months, carrots four to six months, garlic six to seven months, and potatoes, onions and winter squash last the longest around six to eight months depending upon variety.
I just harvested my horseradish and made horseradish relish. This needs to be done outdoors. If you plan to use horseradish but do not have time to grate it all, never fear, horseradish roots will stay fresh in your refrigerator for almost one year.
To make horseradish relish, process the roots in a food processor, add ¾ cups vinegar per cup of ground horseradish, two tablespoons of sugar, and one teaspoon of salt. Store in jars in the fridge for three to five months. Do not can or process as you will lose flavor. After about five months, the horseradish loses it strength and by that time you can dig the ones you left behind.
It is also time to harvest leeks. Leeks do not stay fresh very long. I think the best method of preserving them is to chop and freeze them. I do not blanch, but it is your choice.
Preserving herbs is relatively easy. You can puree them with olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays, after frozen, place in plastic bags in freezer. The best herbs for this method are chives, parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, sage, and garlic scapes when in season. Harvest herbs before them bloom for the nest flavor. Some herbs are better frozen in water such as lemon balm, mint, and any herb that may be used in baking or a non-olive oil dish. Freezing rosemary, thyme, and bay can be done by freezing right on the stem. Spread on cookie sheet and when frozen, place in freezer bags. When ready to use, just pick off leaves as needed. I do a lot of dehydrating and found my herbs taste a lot better when frozen than dried. Chives especially loose flavor from drying so freezing is best. Chives also loose flavor is cooked so when you want flavor, add them to the dish after cooking. They are great in mashed potatoes.
The next Master Gardener classes coming up including Arboriculture with Lisa Johnson on Oct. 19, and Invasives with Anne Pearce on Oct. 26. The cost is $15. Call 608-355-3250 to sign up.