Health conscious homesteaders, farmers, townfolk and urban dwellers all share a common bond: the contents of the refrigerator! We love raw fruits and vegetables. We eat ’em year ’round. And we enjoy it!
At times I wonder why, in the proper climate, are so few homes being built with cool rooms or root cellars, seeing how we all love fresh produce?
I’m fascinated with cold room storage for two reasons. The honest truth is…old-fashioned living has always intrigued me, particularly vintage recipes and methods of food preservation that enable us to live somewhat self-sufficiently. The other reason is that I’ve come to value nutritious food due to chronic illness I carry. A garden full of produce is my best friend from May-October! Once Jack Frost claims his territory, health slowly depletes. This has driven me to learn how to overwinter our garden produce in raw form.
So let’s talk! What are the necessary components for naturally putting up raw food?
Choosing Varieties & Planting Dates-Good cold storage begins in spring by choosing the proper seeds and plants to grow. Doing it yourself is the way to go!
Preparation + Lists for Dry & Humid Storage Vegetables
Some types of produce (lists included in below links) need a dry environment to successfully over-winter, while others won’t survive without high humidity. Curing and preparing either type of produce before moving to a cool room can drastically improve shelf life!
Curing Vegetables for Dry Storage-a list of vegetables needed a dry storage environment and how to cure ’em!
Humid Storage Produce & Preparations-the remaining produce that is suitable for overwintering and how to prepare ’em to do so.
The Issue of Damaged Goods
Never attempt to store blemished goods long term as they will cause no end of grief to your efforts and spoil your harvest! Exactly what should you consider as ‘blemished goods?’
Shovel Sliced Root Vegetables
Carrots, potatoes or root vegetables you sliced through when digging up your beds shouldn’t be put in with your bulk storage. They can go in the cold room, but keep ’em in a separate location and use ’em first.
Never attempt to store bruised produce long term! Onions, garlic, apples and pears are most susceptible. Not only will they break down quickly in storage if handled roughly, but they will affect everything touching ’em and everything their decaying juices come into contact with. When in doubt, take it to the kitchen for immediate consumption.
This is precisely why you want to plant vegetables at the proper time! Healthy, vibrant plants don’t have decay traveling from stems into their root (unless packed tightly together in the their rows). If root vegetables (most likely among beets) have stem decay, painstakingly cut away (up to 1/2 inch deep) at the spots until you are certain decay has been removed. Pack in dirt and use up first. Storage life probably won’t be long!
Worms will cause your produce to break down quickly! Because worm-eaten vegetables and fruit to rot from the inside out, they often affect the vegetables near or underneath ’em before you catch on. If possible, harvest produce yourself and thoroughly inspect it for damage before attempting to store away for winter months.
Cool Room Preserving Methods
There are several ways to preserve vegetables in the cool room. If you have good ventilation, you can attempt to mix dry and humidity loving produce. However, be certain to separate ’em according to their need! Don’t place onions directly above a bin of carrots layered in moist dirt! Check produce that loves a dry temperature regularly until you are satisfied they are not breaking down quicker because of moist soil in the same room.
Storing Fruits-fruit storage can be simple or you can complicate it. Everything depends upon how long a shelf life you wish for!
Storing Root Vegetables -learn how to store root vegetables in the cold room with a bit of moist soil and hard work!