20 Crops That Keep and How to Store Them

Stash a winter’s worth of delicious, homegrown produce in the cool corners of your home.

  • Winter squash keep well in a cool bedroom.
    Illustration by Keith Ward

  • Illustration by Keith Ward
  • Corn, beans and garlic are super easy to store.
    Illustration by Keith Ward
  • A spare dresser in a cool room can provide convenient storage space.
    Illustration by Keith Ward
  • Uproot leeks, cabbage and Brussels sprouts and place in damp sand.
    Illustration by Keith Ward

  • Illustration by Keith Ward

Here in southwest Virginia, my partner and I take pride in growing and storing most of our fruits and vegetables. Knowing where our food comes from gives us confidence in its goodness, plus we save about $5,000 a year through our gardening and food storage efforts. There is another benefit, which is the utter convenience of having a self-provisioned home. In early winter when our stores are full, I feel like I’m living in a well-stocked organic grocery store.

We bring many years of experience to this quest, and we’re still learning. Measured by weight, stored garden crops make up more than half of our overall harvest, with every onion and potato just about as fresh as it was the day it came from the garden. Our mix of storage crops varies from year to year, and we’ve learned that putting them by is something anyone can do — even if your produce comes from the farmers market. By making use of cold storage spots in your basement or garage, and perhaps adding a seasonal second refrigerator, you can easily store at least these 20 crops for winter eating using simple, time-tested methods.

Sleeping Quarters for Storage Crops

Success with storage crops hinges on finding methods that convince the crops that they’re enjoying a natural period of dormancy in unusually comfortable conditions. This typically involves slowing physiology by controlling respiration (usually by lowering temperature) or providing moisture so crisp root vegetables sense that they’re still in the ground. Some staple storage crops, such as garlic, onions, and shallots, need dry conditions to support prolonged dormancy.

Most storage crops need to be cured to enhance their storage potential. During the curing process, potatoes and sweet potatoes heal over small wounds to the skin, garlic and onions form a dry seal over the openings at their necks, and dry beans and grain corn let go of excess moisture that could otherwise cause them to rot. Harvesting, curing, and storage requirements vary with each crop — see the charts below for full details. In my experience, harvesting and curing vegetables properly means much more flexibility when it comes to long-term storage conditions.

Storing Spuds

Seeking out good food storage spots in your home or on your property can lead to interesting discoveries. For example, we were impressed by the following food-storage options that were shared via Facebook.

Place cured potatoes in a burlap bag, tuck the bag into a plastic storage bin left open a wee bit, and keep in an unheated basement.



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