Wednesday, 2 September 2015

How to Store Your Harvest

 Galeux d'Eyesines heirloom squash 

September is here and harvest is fast approaching ... but what to do with the all the extras? How best to preserve your summer harvest well into fall and winter?  

Beans ... 
- Pick when the vines have turned yellow and the pods are light brown in colour.
- Dry the pods in a dry, warm place till they are crispy. Shell and place beans in jars. Store in a cool, dry and dark place like a store room or pantry. Will keep for years.

Green, wax, or purple snap beans
- Pick when at their prime.
- Blanche and freeze
- May also be pickled or canned.   

- Harvest when most of the tops have folded over. If not all tops have yet toppled, give the rest a push of your hand. Best storage success happens if you wait till 80 to 90% of the tops have folded over on their own.
- Leave folded onions in the garden for another week for them to fully mature.
- Onions, like the Stuttgarter, that are spicy and hot and really make you cry, are going to be really good keepers, too.
-  Lay them out to cure in a well-ventilated, dry, shady area, a curing shed (carport is great) for two to three weeks. Do not remove tops yet.
- When they feel nice and dry, with no wet spots, rub off the roots and remove the tops. Onions with thick necks (bull necks) will not cure and so will not keep, use them up first.
- Store in a dry, dark, cool area or room. They can be tied in mesh bags, in nylons stockings, or braided and hung till needed. Can also be laid out in baskets or boxes, as long as they have good air flow.
- Sweet onions and most all red onions are not good keepers, so despite your curing process they will not store for longer than a few weeks time.
- For best success, harvest the sweets throughout the season, as needed. Do not leave them all in the ground till fall for a big harvest... unless you have plans to can or freeze or cook with them.
- Walla Walla's are terrific over-wintering onions... sow the seeds in late summer and begin harvesting in spring/early summer. 

Carrots in the winter garden... not fazed by the rains or snows... 

- Here on the west coast, the best place to store your carrots all winter is in the ground! Harvest as needed throughout the fall and winter. If the ground has a frozen crust, you can generally lift it with a pitch fork and harvest your carrots ... or simply wait a couple of hours/days for it to thaw. Carrots will be just fine.
- Some folks cover their in-ground veggies with straw or leaves, but I never have and have never lost a carrot yet. 

- Store in ground as you would with carrots.

- Leave in the garden, harvest as needed.

- Most beets are ready to harvest 50 to 60 days after sowing.  Lift when the shoulders are a bit above ground and the beets are of a good size. Bigger beets tend to be woody, stringy, or wrinkly, so are at their best if picked a bit on the smaller side.
-To store beets, cut off the tops to about 1inch long and brush off the soil. If you wash your beets, make sure that they are completely dry before storing.
-Place beets into a container of slightly damp sand, peat moss, or sawdust. Do not have them touching each other to prevent rot from starting and spreading. Place lid on container and store for months in a cool, dark place such as a garage or cold room.

- Harvest potatoes when vines have died back.
- Lift a spud or two and rub your thumb across the skin. If you can brush it off, it needs a few more days under ground to mature the skin. When lifting, be careful not to damage the spuds, as bruised or wounded ones will quickly rot in storage. 
- Place in a dark, dry, warm-ish (10 to 15 C), well ventilated area to cure for a couple of weeks. Place on wooden tables or newsprint, never on concrete. Brush the soil off, do not wash.
- Place in mesh, paper or burlap bags, or laundry bins or boxes with newspaper between the layers. Do not place in a tightly sealed bins, no lids, as potatoes need good air flow.
- Potatoes, here on the coast, can also be mulched with straw and left in the garden to be harvested as needed, in winter.
- Another great idea for storage (esp if you have rodent issues) is to bury or partially bury a garbage can or bin in the garden, place some straw into the bin and use this as cold weather storage for your spuds. Do not use a clear bin as that will allow in light and your spuds will go green. Green potatoes are toxic and should not be eaten.  

Spaghetti squash
Winter Squash
- Harvest when vines begin to wither and brown. Press your thumbnail into the skin.It is ready if you cannot easily puncture it.
- Leave some of the stem on the squash, two to three inches. Do not lift by the stem!
- Place in a warm, sunny place to cure for a couple of weeks. Lay out on a wooden surface, if possible, such as an untreated table top or a pallet will do nicely, too. If you need to lay it out on the floor, place down some newsprint first, do not place on bare concrete.
- Wipe clean, some use a 10% bleach solution to kill any mould spores. I just nicely buff mine.   
- After curing for several weeks, place in a cool, dry, dark place. Most will keep for 3 or even 5 months. Do not cure Acorns, eat them first as they only keep for 5 weeks ; )  

Making sauerkraut

- Harvest your cabbages when you have nice, firm heads. 
- Cut the stem, peel off any layers with damage, and check for bugs. Is very common to find earwigs or even wee snails hiding in between the layers.
- Store cool and moist. An extra fridge works well for storage, if you have one. May also be wrapped in wax paper and stored in a cool, garage or basement.
- If no such storage is available, or if the heads have split in the rain, chop or cut into wedges, blanch for 90 seconds, chill, dry and freeze.
- Chopped cabbage can also be dehydrated for adding to soups and stews all winter long.
- Another idea that makes sense (due to the smell), is to store the heads in a garden trench. Place upside down into a trench in the garden bed, cover loosely with soil, and dig up as needed. Dig small ditches beside your trench for water to run away from your veggies. 
- If all else fails, make sauerkraut!

Brussels Sprouts
- Remove bottom leaves to help form good sized sprouts. Top can also be cut off to speed up the process.
- Leave in the garden and harvest as needed. They benefit from a bit of frost to make them even tastier.

- To freeze, cut into cubes, blanch, chill, dry and freeze. Keeps for 10 months.
- If you wish to store the extras rather than freezing, do not wash them. Brush off any soil and bits, cut off tops, and place into a box or bin, single layer. Place in a dark, cool area, well-ventilated as they tend to have a strong smell. If you have more than one layer, add damp sawdust or sand between the layers.     
- May also be left in the garden if your beds do not freeze through. Mulch with straw and harvest as needed.
- The partially buried bin also works well for turnips, but instead of packing them in straw, use damp sawdust or sand.

- Lift your rutabagas any time after they are about 3" across or leave in till they are larger. Pulling may not work as they have a tap root, so gently lift with shovel or garden fork.
- Do not wash. Store in a cool and damp location for up to 4 months. May also be left in the ground, mulched with straw, and harvested as needed throughout the winter.

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