You’ve carefully cared for your garden all summer long. Hopefully you found that the challenge wasn’t how to grow your vegetables, but rather how to keep up with harvesting and eating them. Now, as you prepare for fall and winter, you may be finding that your vegetables, and especially your root vegetables, are still growing and ready for picking. The question is how to store those vegetables so that you can enjoy them in the months ahead as colder weather sets in.
The good news is that while much of your produce requires proper canning or freezing, your root vegetables are best stored “as is” if you have the right temp (32-40 degrees) and a humid environment. Ideally, your refrigerator is the best location for root vegetables. That is, if you have room in your fridge to store a pile of potatoes through the winter. Most of us need another plan. We also need to consider how long we plan to store and whether the produce we have can be stored together. Here’s a guide to get you started.
Hold off on picking your root vegetables for as long as possible and certainly until the roots are mature and the produce has strong, thick skin. If possible, pick your vegetables from dry soil. Either way, plan to leave your root vegetables out in the sun to discontinue the growing, dry them a bit more, and make it easy to brush off extra dirt. Once these steps are complete, it’s best to store them correctly right away (unwashed) to preserve the best quality and flavor.
It’s important to just go ahead and eat root vegetables that may be bruised or compromised in any way, as these vegetables may not only rot quickly, but could cause other vegetables to rot too. In addition to making sure one “bad” root vegetable doesn’t ruin the bunch, you also need to separate some produce that may cause other produce to go bad quickly. Apples, for example, give off gases that can cause root vegetables to prematurely spoil.
Some people go through quite a bit to get their root vegetables stored just right. A quick Google search will show you what I mean. But before you build a storage closet or go to other lengths to protect your root vegetables, consider other options. The most important things to keep in mind are the necessary temperature, air moisture and darkness that allow for successful storage. The National Garden Association offers many ideas for storage in your basement or other locations, while the folks at Kitchn suggest the best way to store root vegetables right in your kitchen.
The bottom line is that the quality of your produce and the storage location will determine how long your vegetables will store well. That said, there are general timelines we can follow too.
- Beets: 1-2 months
- Carrots: 4-6 months
- Onions: 5-8 months
- Parsnips: 2-6 months
- Potatoes: 5-8 months
- Sweet potatoes: 4-6 months
- Turnips: 4-5 months