One of the things that we started to dedicate ourselves to this year is food preservation and storage. Saving the bounty of the harvest when produce is in-season and cheap so that you can eat good food all winter. One of the toughest things for us has always been winter root vegetable storage. We’ve never had great luck storing vegetables all winter long, mostly because we had previously lived in a newly built house. You know, one of those energy efficient things with very little air circulation and a fairly warm basement. Now that we’ve moved into a right proper nearly 100 year old house, we decided to really tackle the problem head-on.
There are a number of different ways to store root veggies all winter. A root cellar would be nice, but that would require a lot of digging. We thought about the possibility of just burying some garbage cans; but again, too much digging. Another possibility would be to build out and insulate a small room by one of the basement windows and rig up a system of circulating and letting in cold air to regulate the temperature. That would take a lot of work and use up too much basement space.
What we ended up doing is taking a freezer that has a slow refrigerant leak and converting it into a refrigerator through the use of an external thermostat. This works quite well. The downside is that the thermostat we picked up isn’t as accurate as we’d like. It was expensive enough and buying a better one would mean shelling out 100 dollars or so. We may end up doing that for next year. But, all in all it isn’t too shabby of a setup.
We experimented with putting carrots into small, trash bag lined boxes and burying the carrots in damp sand. This works fantastic. I’ve only found a single rotten carrot in the lot. The rest have held up great. We threw a bunch of cabbage heads in there. The outer leaves look awful, as one would expect. I’ll be interested to see if the rest of the cabbage has held up. Then we put in about 150 pounds of potatoes. That was the cause of much sadness.
My wife noticed that some of the potatoes were moldy when she went to pull some out of storage. I checked them all out today. All the potatoes were a loss.
I’m trying to figure out what went wrong. We stored the potatoes in a mixture of sand and peat. It seems like that was a big mistake. One of the boxes had more sand than the others and the potatoes looked much better, but still moldy. I think next year we’ll try all sand and slightly less moisture in the sand.
We also have some pie pumpkins and butternut squash. Those we just left in a box out in the basement. Our basement is well under 60 degrees, so the squash is quite happy. We packed sweet potatoes into small, trash bag lined boxes, buried them in a sand/peat mix, and left them out in the basement. So far, so good with them.
I think next fall I’d like to get a lot more carrots, some turnips, and rutabaga. Those should all hold up in the fridge-freezer.
There are certainly other ways to preserve root veggies, but they’re a lot more labor intensive and would require shelf space for canned items or freezer space. We wanted to go the low labor route since we have many other things to cook and preserve at that time of the year.