How to store vegetables

Which vegetables will store and how long will they keep? This is an annual dilemma faced by many gardeners. Often the need for storage is caused by gardeners being too generous in their sowings and planting and creating their own ‘gluts’ and ‘surpluses’. Why plant 200 onion sets if you only use a single bulb per week?

How to store vegetables

Colin Randel, Thompson & Morgan’s vegetable new product manager, advises how best to store vegetables.

Sowing little and often reduces the wastage and ‘glut’ of the most popular subjects – lettuce, spinach, radish, spring onions, beets. Some of these, particularly the leafy vegetables, are unsuitable for storing anyway, as they quickly go limp, lose their freshness and eye appeal.

The most important thing to remember is ‘fresh is best’, that is why you are growing your own in the first place – for their taste, freshness, quality and nutritional values.

Freeze surpluses of shelling peas and sweetcorn, as they quickly lose their freshness and taste once picked. Frozen peas are one of the few vegetables that are worth buying in the supermarket as they are harvested and frozen very quickly, so maintaining their taste and nutrition. With broad beans, the green seeded varieties are less prone to discolouring in the freezer. French and runner bean varieties freeze exceptionally well.

Brassicas
Winter cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, savoy and winter cabbage are best left where they are growing, although need to be netted against pigeons. They can be dug up, leaving the soil attached to the roots and hung upside down by tying with string suspended from a beam in your shed. They will store for a good couple of months.

Maincrop onions/shallots
Lift the bulbs on a dry, sunny but windy day and leave them on the soil surface to ‘set’ skins. Do not rub these off. Carefully remove any soil from the roots, and store sound bulbs in slatted trays, used tights, polypropylene onion nets or tied in ropes and hung in the shed.

How to store vegetables

Maincrop beet, carrots, parsnip, swede, turnip,
These can be left in the soil, although soil pests and rodents may take advantage, and prolonged severely cold soil temperatures can affect the root texture and reduce quality and flavour. We suggest lifting some of your roots, twisting off the leaves and storing in boxes in layers of barely damp multipurpose compost, sieved soil or sand. Keep cool but frost free. Place a blanket over the boxes to keep them dark. Roots in boxes should not touch each other to avoid rots spreading and to allow easier air movement and moisture between the roots.

How to store vegetables

Leeks and trench celery
These really are best left where they are and lifted as required. The soil can be earthed further up the stems to protect them during the harshest weather.

Maincrop potatoes
Sound, dry, fully ‘set’ skin tubers are best stored in hessian sacks or thick paper bags and covered with a blanket to block out any light. Potatoes must be stored in cool but frost free conditions in the dark and will store for many months.

How to store vegetables

Important reminders

  • Store only blemish free, sound, good quality produce
  • Check stored produce regularly and remove any showing rotting or symptoms of disease
  • Never store in polythene as sweating will quickly encourage rotting
  • Sheds/garages should be cool but frost free, although using blankets for insulation and darkness may suffice
  • Ideally some air circulation is beneficial for storing most crops.
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