Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Storing Summer Vegetables into Fall

I don't really like canning all that much. For some things, it's the best way to preserve the harvest. But I have to balance that with what we'll actually eat. Aries doesn't like anything with vinegar, so I'm the only one that will eat pickles of any kind. Both of us prefer honey on our toast (and we barter our eggs with a beekeeper), so only occasionally will I make a batch of jam (strawberry or peach). Tomatoes, now, we eat a lot of, so those I can in various configurations (see previous posts on canning for those recipes). And I use applesauce instead of oil in a lot of my baking recipes, so canning a batch or two of applesauce is also an annual undertaking.

I don't freeze too much either. We only have the freezer part of our refrigerator, so space is an issue. Besides, I don't really like having my winter food supply dependent on a constant source of electricity - winter storms have been known to knock out power here for hours. Fruit, I dehydrate if I get a bumper crop, and also experiment with making hard ciders and perry. For the most part, we eat fresh vegetables when they're in season, and go for low-maintenance storage and cold-season crops to stretch our fresh foods options.

We do have a cellar. I open it up when nights start getting colder (but not below freezing) and then close it up during the warmer fall days to drop the temperature inside. Right now, the temperature down there is in the middle 50's. That's the perfect temperature for keeping some summer vegetables, at least into December. Refrigerators are too cold to keep summer vegetables into fall, but you might be able to do what I do with an unheated closet, enclosing an outside stairwell into your basement, or even under the bed in a closed-off guest room. I always let the last few zucchini grow pretty big - they'll keep almost as well as some winter squashes. Cellar-ripened slicing tomatoes are always on my Thanksgiving table, and usually Christmas too. Eggplant will keep until New Year's, if we don't eat them all first. I let them get full-sized but still firm, cut the stem close and break off the pointy parts of the caps (you don't want to damage the actual fruit part), and then wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. This year I tried growing lemon cucumbers, and just ate the last of them - they kept just piled in a big lightly-covered bowl. If I'd grown more, I think they would have made it to my Thanksgiving table as well.


Anonymous said...

This is what I need more of - how to winter over fresh veggies. My basement is a hand dug quarter with access to the outside. The furnace is located in this area and keeps this small space about 50 something degrees.

Patty said...

In Texas, canning is our best option. But we can grow many items all winter long, like collard greens, cabbage and carrots seem to do fine over the winter in the ground.
We had friends that had a "sand box" in their cellar in Oregon in which they kept carrots and potatoes, it worked great.

Unknown said...

Where did you get those great brown crates that you store your veggies in? We have a very chilly furnace room off of our basement that is dug out of the rock below our house where I store my canned goods and root vegetables.

Sadge said...

Hi Melissa! Those brown crates say Dolly Madison on the sides, so must have originally held ice cream or bakery items. Turned one way they nest, turned the other way they stack. I got those from an elderly couple down the street, years ago, when they stopped gardening and moved away. They ran a bar/restaurant/catering business in the 1940's - 60's, so probably had those from when they were still working in food service. You can try dumpster-diving behind local restaurants after they go out of business, watch for similar items at garage sales, or maybe try someplace like Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Unknown said...

Thanks for answering my question and commenting on my blog! I will be looking for some crates like those!