Produce types that stores well in a dry environment are few and far between. These are most often the easiest keepers and after proper curing, they require little attention.
Included are members of the allium family (garlic, onions, shallots), winter squashes and pumpkins.
Curing vegetables for dry storage is simple and it seems everyone’s technique varies ever so slightly. Often, its the weather that causes a kink in the system. Know this upfront: outdoor curing and rain/snow don’t mix!
Should bad weather settle upon you while attempting to cure vegetables, the operation must be moved indoors. A shed, barn or garage will do well!
Hard neck varieties: for optimum bulb growth, garlic scapes should be removed before flower heads blossom out. Plants can be harvested when the tips of first 3 leaves (those closest to the ground) begin turning brown. If left for too long, a second layer of cloves may form and split the paper skin. These will not store long and are not to be desired for winter storage.
Soft neck varieties: I don’t have any personal experience with this, so I shall refer you to another!
When hardneck garlic is ready, pull plants by their greens. Avoid banging the bulb itself, as bruised garlic will not store well.
With a piece of baling twine or hemp, bind garlic stalks together in groupings of 7-10.
Some folks claim garlic should be cured out of direct sunlight. Others? That mild sunlight (no hotter than 70F (21C) is the best cure. You’ll find people saying garlic should be cured indoors, where it’s warm. Others swear by leaving it to hang in a cold, covered area. It’s obviously a matter of choice and situation!
Regardless of what you choose, make certain there is proper ventilation and shelter from rain or water. We want those bulbs to dry out!
When it comes to winter storage, error on the side of over drying your garlic. And truly? It’s impossible to let it hang for too long! The speed at which curing takes place depends on your outdoor temperatures and air circulation.
Testing garlic for dryness is easily done! After a few weeks of hanging, inspect a bulb. The outer paper should be dry and crinkly. If so, remove papery skin, then a single clove. Firmly press it between your fingers. If the peel cracks and splits, your garlic is ready for storage. Should it remain tight to the clove, the moisture level is still too high. Let it cure for at least another week before checking again.
When ready, remove the tops with a pair of hedge clippers. If desired, a layer or two of the outer paper and it’s dirt-coating can be removed. Garlic should be stored in a paper bag or basket, something that allows for airflow.
When choosing for storage, go with types that are labeled as “winter keepers” or “storage” onions.
Harvest when tops begin turning brown and falling over. If you had a late start to onions, tops may bent at base to speed up the process. Leave for 2-3 days for finishing.
Pull onions by their roots and cure in the same environment you would garlic. Onions can be spread on a screen, a table top or the deck floor!
They are ready for storage when the peels are papery and dry to the touch. Keep on a shelf or in a basket where there is good air circulation.
Leave on vine until after the first frost. Pick, leaving stem attached to vegetable. Leave in cold for 3-14 days, but don’t allow to freeze! Bring into a warm environment 23C-27C (75F-80F) and leave until scratches or slices heal over (several days +). Store away in cool room, leaving space between each individual vegetable. Squash rots quicker when touching a neighboring squash!
Want to learn more? Keep reading: How to Store Fruit