Storing Produce

Storing Produce
Recipe type: Storage
Since we are entering the end of the market season (boohoo!) it’s time to think about how to store some of these wonderful foods for enjoyment during the winter. Many varieties of fruits and vegetables can be stored in a basement, others require refrigeration, and still others are best preserved by preparation and freezing.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes should not be refrigerated for a long period of time because they turn ‘sweet’, which means that the carbohydrates in the potatoes begin to convert into sugars - which triggers sprouting. It’s best to store them in a cool basement or garage (50 – 60*) out of the light. If they are clean, dry and in the dark they will store for several months. You don’t need to wash them before storage; it’s best to keep a potato dry to avoid mold growth.
  • Sweet Potatoes: In the past, Southerners stored their staple sweet potatoes by burying them in sand in the basement or under a house. You’ll want to reproduce those conditions by keeping them cool, dry, and dark. Store them in your basement (55-60*) in the dark; keep them as dry as possible (you might want to wrap them in paper bags or even peat moss to decrease the moisture levels) and they should last for several months.
  • Butternut Squash and Neck Pumpkins: Squashes and pumpkins are easily stored; I’ve had them last well into spring without any trouble. Simply place them on shelves in your basement. The only real change that occurs is that the skins become harder as they age. To put this into perspective, our farming ancestors all over the world have relied on squashes for millennia to get them through the winter; they are a superb source of vitamins and were used in soups all winter long.
  • Apples and Pears: In the past, farming families grew specific types of fruit to store over winter. Many of these varieties have, alas, been lost in the rush to mechanize orchard production, but our fruit suppliers (North Star Orchards and Fruitwood Orchards) each carry varieties which can be stored for months. Ask Lisa and Mike for the specifics on storing the fruit; I know that North Star’s Gold Rush apples can survive for months in a basket in the garage (and they become sweeter as they age) – I’m buying a 20 pound bag as I have for many years and we eat them all before they show any signs of age whatsoever! Pears are trickier to age; in the past European farmers built storage racks in sheds to over-winter pears but many of those thicker-skinned varieties are harder to find these days. However, many pears will survive for some time in the fridge and one or two of the Asian pear varieties do very well for a month of two in the fridge.
  • Apple Juice: Fruitwood Orchards’ apple cider can be frozen. Simply pour some of the liquid out of the top of the container (to allow room for ice expansion) and place in your freezer.
  • Tomatoes: Believe it or not, tomatoes can be frozen whole! All you need to do is wash them, wipe them dry, and freeze individually. Once they are hard as a rock you can place them in a bag with other tomatoes for use later. They won’t work really well in salads but are fantastic for sauces, soups, and other cooked dishes.
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower: I’ve never frozen these vegetables whole, but have cooked and then frozen them. If you plan to use them in soups you can cook them (roast or boil), puree, and store in bags in the freezer until needed.
  • Peppers: Peppers should be cooked before being frozen. I usually slice and sauté them with some onion and garlic and then freeze bags of the pepper mixture for later use with eggs, soups, etc.
  • Meats: All of the meats sold at the Oakmont Farmers Market are sold frozen or can be frozen. The meat is sold frozen and shrink-wrapped so you can just bring it home and pop it into the freezer. The turkeys to be delivered on November 14th and 21st will be delivered fresh, but bagged, so you can bring them home and freeze immediately.
  • Cheeses: the shrink-wrapped half-pound blocks of cheese sold by Hillacres Pride will keep for several months in the refrigerator.