Much of last week was dedicated to planting for the future. Storage vegetables, such as cabbage and rutabaga, went in the ground, treats that will be harvested months from now for our Door-to-Door Holiday Share. Storage cabbage and rutabaga, along with carrots, onions, garlic, leeks, squash, and beets, just to name a few, are important components of the local diet. Thanks to their unique tolerance for longterm storage post-harvest, they feed us throughout the winter. For those of you who are trying to maintain a year round local diet these vegetables will be a staple during the cold months when fresh produce growth has slowed or halted all together. If stored properly these vegetables will taste fresh even months after they have been harvested, which makes them a great compliment to your pantry and freezer cache.
Many plants that survive the winter outside go into a state of dormancy in order to survive the scarcity of heat and light. Proper storage practices will make your fruits and vegetables “believe” they are in this dormant state. Storage success begins with proper harvest and curing practices. If these two steps are not done effectively the vegetable will not last as they should.
Root vegetables make for great storage crops such as carrots, beets, potatoes and rutabaga. If left in the ground these roots would last through the winter, so when storing them it is best to try and "trick" the vegetable into “thinking” it is still in the soil. This means mimicking a moist environment with cool temperatures, and minimal exposure to light, such as a basement or refrigerated space.
If you have your own garden planted with root vegetables you could technically leave them in the ground to store over the winter, and harvest as needed. Although logical, this is not recommended as you risk sharing your harvest with all of the other hungry creatures trolling the garden during this lean season.
The bulb vegetables such as onions, shallots and garlic require a curing period before they can be properly stored. This is a period of time where the bulbs are laid out to dry for a few weeks. Allowing this time for extra moisture to dissipate before crating, reduces the opportunity for rot. These alliums should still be stored in a dry place even after they have been cured.
Different fruits and vegetables store for different lengths, so meal planning is an important part of using your stores to their fullest potential, and not losing anything to rot or mold. Mother Earth News is a great resource for storage tips.
Happily, we still have many fresh vegetables to share with you before we reach storage vegetable season, and you can look forward to our Door-to-Door Summer Share beginning on Tuesday, 6/16, before thinking about what to cook with your Door-to-Door Holiday Share. In fact, just last week we noticed the first cherry tomatoes beginning to blush on the vine!
In other news, our employee search was a success! We now have a full team, and are confidently prepared for the season ahead. Thank you to everyone who spread the word, and put an ear to the ground on our behalf.