Winterstorage

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Crops for Cool Storage (7-15ºC)

These easy-to-store crops are best kept in a cool place, which could be a basement, an unheated bedroom or an attached garage.

Dry beans

Gather pods as they dry to tan and plants turn yellow, but before pods shatter. Dry whole pods in a warm, dry place until crisp. Shell beans and continue drying in open containers at room temperature for two weeks.
Store in airtight jars in a cool, dark place. Freezing dried beans kills any insects present.

Grain corn

Gather ears after the plants and husks dry to tan, but before the weather turns cool and damp. Remove husks. Dry ears in a warm, well ventilated place for at least a week. Continue to dry until half of the kernels fall when ears are twisted between two hands.
Store whole, dry ears in boxes or bins in a cool, dry place. Bring batches into a warm spot near radiant heat for a few days to lower moisture content, which will make it easier to remove kernels.

Garlic

Dig, then pull when plant is still 60 percent green. Fewer than six leaves should appear healthy. Cure in a warm (27ºC or warmer), well-ventilated place for at least two weeks. Trim back tops to 4 inches, and then cure another week. Trim again before storing.
Store in boxes or mesh bags in a cool place with moderate humidity, such as a cool basement.

Onion

Pull when at least half of the tops are dead or have fallen over. Avoid harvesting in wet weather. Cure in a warm (27ºC or warmer), shady, well-ventilated place for a week. Trim back tops, and then cure two weeks more. Trim again before storing.
Store in boxes or mesh bags in a cool place with moderate humidity.

Potato

Harvest before soil temperatures fall below 13ºC to minimize bruising. Protect from  sun.
Wash only to remove clods of soil. Cure in a cool, dark, moist place (10-15°C) for two to three weeks.
Store in closed boxes or cloth-covered baskets in a cool place with moderate humidity, or store in  buried containers.

Pumpkin

Cut ripe fruits from the vine, leaving a short stub of stem attached. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove soil. Cure in a well-ventilated place with warm room temperatures (21-27ºC) for one to two weeks.
Store in bushel baskets or on shelves in a cool place with moderate humidity.

Shallot

Pull when the tops are at least half-dead. Avoid harvesting in wet weather. Cure in a warm (27ºC or warmer), well-ventilated place for a week. Trim back tops, and then cure two weeks more.
Store in boxes or mesh bags in a cool place with moderate humidity.

Sweet potato

Dig while the weather and soil are still warm, at least a month before your first fall frost. Cure in a warm (30ºC or warmer), humid place for one to two weeks until all skin wounds have healed. For perfect conditions, place jugs of hot water into a large cooler.
Store at cool room temperature (13-15ºC) and moderate humidity. Avoid chilling.

Winter squash

Cut ripe fruits from the vine, leaving a short stub of stem attached. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove soil. Cure in a well-ventilated place with warm room temperatures (21-27ºC) for one to two weeks.
Store in bushel baskets, shallow containers or on shelves in a cool place with moderate humidity.


Crops for Cold Storage (32-45 degrees F)

Very low refrigerator temperatures (32 to 35 degrees) prolong the storage life of these fruits and vegetables, but many can also be stored in slightly higher temperatures using time-tested, low-tech methods. According to Iowa State University, these crops can be stored for at least two months when provided proper conditions.

Apple

Pick when seeds are dark brown and fruits come away with a moderate tug. Choose mid- and late-season apples for storage. Sort carefully to remove blemished fruits. Wrap best fruits individually in paper. Promptly refrigerate to slow the ripening process.
Store in refrigerator or another very cold place, in perforated plastic bags or waxed boxes to maintain high humidity. Check weekly.

Beet

Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one quarter-inch, but do not trim roots. Wash in cool water. Pat dry.
Refrigerate beets in plastic bags or pack in damp sand in a sealed container and store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.

Cabbage

Harvest before outermost leaves start losing color, or before hard freeze. Remove outer leaves.
Refrigerate in plastic bags or plant trimmed cabbage heads with roots attached in buckets of damp sand in a root cellar or cold greenhouse.

Carrot*

Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one half-inch. Wash gently in cool water. Pat dry. Refrigerate in plastic bags.
Refrigerate or pack in damp sand in a sealed container and store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.

Celeriac*

Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one quarter-inch and cut off long roots. Shake off soil but do not wash. Refrigerate in plastic bags.
Refrigerate or pack in damp sand in a sealed container and store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.

Celery

Before hard freeze, lift plants with soil attached to roots. Transplant to a shallow bin or bucket, or a
bed in a cold greenhouse. Keep celery roots moist to wet, but keep foliage dry. Harvest stalks as needed by cutting them with a sharp knife.
Store celery in a cool garage or greenhouse and harvest stalks until only small hearts remain. Plants that make it through winter can be replanted outdoors in spring. Established plants are often hardy to Zone 7 and do not require lifting.

Leek

Dig, and then pull leeks before hard freeze. Transplant to a shallow bin or bucket, or a bed in a
cold greenhouse. Trim back tops by half their length after transplanting. Move to a cold place where the roots will not freeze.
Store leeks in a cool garage or greenhouse and harvest as needed until they are gone. Replant trimmed-off roots to a tray of lightly moist soil. Most will grow into new plants.

Parsnip*

Leave some parsnips in the ground to dig in early spring. Harvest most before hard freeze. Trim tops
to one half-inch, wash in cool water. Pat dry. Refrigerate in plastic bags.
Parsnips can be kept refrigerated in plastic bags, or packed in damp sand in a sealed container and stored in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.

Pear

Pick as green fruits turn a lighter shade of green. Seeds should be medium to dark green, with fruits
quite hard. Cure in a cool, 40- to 50-degree place for a week to promote even ripening. Sort carefully
to remove blemished fruits. Wrap best fruits individually in paper.
Store in refrigerator or very cold place, below 40 degrees, in perforated plastic bags or waxed boxes to maintain high humidity. Check weekly.

Rutabaga*

Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one half-inch; also cut off taproot. Wash in cool water.
Pat dry. Refrigerate in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
Rutabagas can be kept refrigerated, or packed in damp sand in a sealed container and stored in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.

Turnip*

Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one half-inch, but do not trim roots. Wash in cool water.
Pat dry. Refrigerate in plastic bags.
Refrigerate or pack in damp sand in a sealed container and store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.

Note: *Sensitive to ethylene gases given off by apples and other fruits.


Build Your Own Root Cellar

  1. Root Cellars Pushed aside by the development of refrigeration technology, root cellars made a comeback among homesteaders in the 1970s and 80s.
  2. Build a Basement Root Cellar Storing crops in a passively cooled basement root cellar is one of the most efficient ways to preserve food.
  3. Building a Root Cellar Building a root cellar took longer than the author thought, but once completed it was an effective structure for year-round food storage.
  4. Outdoor Root CellarsFive easy ways to store fresh food for winter right in your garden — it’s as easy as tossing a bagful of leaves over a patch of carrots!
  5. Build a Root Cellar: A Complete Guidebook If you’re aiming to save money, live a more sustainable life, or simply stock up on the best-quality produce from farmers markets, a root cellar can be a wise addition to your country, suburban or even urban homestead.
  6. Root CellaringThis guide to root cellaring will teach you everything you need to know about building and using your own root cellar to enjoy a year-round harvest.
  7. Country Lore: Dig a Bucket-Size Root Cellar  A 5-gallon bucket and bucket-size hole are all you need to make a simple root cellar for carrots.
  8. Converting an Old Refrigerator into a Root Cellar What started as a broken refrigerator destined for the garbage dump turned into a sustainable and inexpensive way to store vegetables.
  9. Low-Cost Root Cellar: Bury a Boat!  Check out this novel way to create a backyard, underground food-storage facility.
  10. Build a Root Cellar Store vegetables underground safely by building your own root cellar, a concrete wall structure.
  11. Build Your Own Food Storage Unit to Store Vegetables  MOTHER EARTH NEWS gives readers information on a build it yourself food storage chest that acts like a portable root cellar to store vegetables.
  12. Low-Cost Multipurpose Earthbag Building  With this novel technique you can make an earthbag building to serve as a studio, garden shed, chicken coop, or root/storm cellar — no permit required!
  13. How to Build a Cave  Learn how to build a small, water-tight cave that’s perfect for storing vegetables or for using as a private retreat.
  14. Build This Outdoor Cold Cellar  Build a wood box, bury it part way in the ground, lay on a cover, and viola! You have an outdoor cold cellar to store vegetables for the winter.
  15. An Easy Method for Storing Vegetables Underground  An alternative to building a root cellar is storing vegetables underground using a plastic storage box underneath a hole, mounded with leaves or sawdust.
  16. White Trash or Ingenious Invention?  Decide for yourself with this guide to converting an old refrigerator into a root cellar.
  17. Under The Stairs  Take inspiration from this article and find unconventional spaces in your home for produce storage.
  18. Installing a Roof and Creating Prefabricated Root Cellars  MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers receive guidance on roof safety when installing a roof, and using a chest freezer as a root cellar.
  19. Self-Sufficient Life: The Mother Earth News Almanac  This article contains excerpts from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS ALMANAC, a 384 page book of recipes, tips, hints, projects, and other assorted ephemera for people wishing to lead a self-sufficient life.
  20. Root Cellar Plans  These unique root cellar plans show you how to build a root cellar for food storage by adapting a new concrete septic tank.

Root Cellar Management

  1. The Fundamentals of Root Cellaring  Root cellaring can help you enjoy fresh produce all year long.
  2. Do You Have Any Recommendations on Ventilation for a Root Cellar?  Learn proper root cellar ventilation techniques from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS experts.
  3. Root Cellaring, Mulching Materials, and Other Wisdom From Helen and Scott Nearing  In this installment of their regular column, Helen and Scott Nearing answer reader questions about effective root cellaring, mulching materials, other topics relevant to homesteading.

Storing Your Produce

  1. Stocking the Root Cellar: How to Store Vegetables Over the Winter keep winter vegetables fresh underground, including guidelines for preparation, curing, and storage.
  2. Preparing for the Root Cellar: Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling of Vegetables  If you time the harvest right and pay attention to your post-harvest handling of vegetables and fruits, you can get the most of your storage crops.
  3. A Well-Stocked Root Cellar is a Valuable Asset for Self-Sufficiency A well-stocked root cellar can help ease the transition from winter to spring and help us be more prepared in post-September 11 America.
  4. How to Store Fresh Vegetables  You can learn the best crops to grow or buy, and how to store fresh vegetables year round.
  5. Enjoy Fresh Food in Winter Be more self-reliant by using natural cold storage.
  6. Preserving Food for Winter Storage  Mary Lou Shaw preserves her summer’s harvest by freezing, canning, drying and winter storage in a homemade, basement root cellar.
  7. How to Preserve Food Without Refrigeration  It is possible to preserve food without refrigeration by canning, drying or using a root cellar.
  8. Have Fresh Food Throughout the Year  Learn the best tips for drying, freezing and canning food, including a list of the methods that are most suitable for preserving different kinds of food.
  9. Fridge-less Living: Our Favorite Food Preservation Methods and Tips  Our favorite old-time food preservation methods include canning and storing food in a root cellar, drying fruits and vegetables and pickling.
  10. Grow It! Preserving Food for Winter  Richard Langer explains how to preserve your harvest for winter by drying fruits, fermenting sauerkraut, building root cellars and churning homemade butter.
  11. DIY Produce Storage Bins   Turn your pantry into a movable feast with fresh crops stashed in these stackable produce storage bins. The plans offer two versions of DIY storage bins: tall and short. Best of all, these pantry storage containers can be easily moved from the garden to the house and back again.