October 13, 2011 at 9:07 a.m.

On harvesting and storing garden produce

On harvesting and storing garden produce
On harvesting and storing garden produce

By now most of your garden produce has been eaten, canned, frozen, or dried. What's left needs to be cured and stored properly so one can get the maximum use of produce.

Early apples have been picked, and mid-season apples probably have been picked by the time this article is published (even though apple harvest is two to three weeks late this year.) Late apple harvest should be complete by mid to late October, depending on the wind and temperatures.

For best results, store fruits (apples, pears, etc.) and vegetables separately. Ripening apples, pears, and other fruits release ethylene gas that may shorten the storage life of winter squash and pumpkins. Apples stored between 28 degrees and 30 degrees can last for a long time.

Most storage onions have been picked. I raise a lot of onions and I think my rate of success is determined by the summer weather. I have several large trays that I use to spread my onions out in my shed. I must go through them and discard or use those that are suspect. I don't have a root cellar so I put them in the coolest area of my basement. I ventilate them on trays, while some use onion bags, and continue to remove soft and poor quality onions. Know what variety of onions you have because Bermuda, Sweet Spanish, Candy, etc., will store only a few months, while Copra and Globe type onions may store well for many months.

Many gardeners raise two types of potatoes. I raise Norland Reds or new potatoes. They are picked when the plants are still immature. They are mostly eaten with the skin on and are boiled. They don't bake well because the skins are thin.

Potatoes grown for fall and winter consumption should be dug when the plants have died and are fully mature. Before placing in storage, cure the tubers with a temperature of around 50 degrees, and a high humidity. Curing for two weeks will allow minor cuts to heal and skins to thicken. Potatoes should be stored in a dark location with a temperature of around 40 degrees and high humidity. Don't ever let potatoes freeze.

Mature winter squash will have hard skins that can't be punctured with a thumbnail while pumpkins should be uniformly orange. When harvesting, leave one-inch stem on the squash and a three to four inch stem on pumpkins. Store winter squash and pumpkins in single layers to allow air circulation and reduce fruit rot. Acorn squash can store for five to eight weeks. Butternut squash and pumpkins will keep two to three months, while Hubbard squash can store for three to six months.


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