Growing a Winter Larder in the South
Here at the Sustainable Seed Company, we grow not just to produce heirloom seeds, but also to feed our families all year long, so we always plant winter storage crops. The South has the advantage of a slightly longer growing season and warmer winters, giving gardeners the opportunity to have several plantings over the course of spring and summer and the opportunity to leave some crops like carrots, beets, parsnips, and leeks to overwinter inground. I've put together a list of edibles that thrive in the South; plant now through July to assure your winter larder will be plentiful through next spring.
When harvesting your winter storage crops, always brush off excess soil if you are curing, and never wash vegetables going into storage, any moisture will encourage rot. Always harvest crops at their prime, being careful not to nick the outer skins, and keep only unblemished vegetables for storage -- the others should be eaten immediately.
Grow: LeeksAmercian Flag Leeks
American Flag leeks is a family favorite.
Harvest: Leeks have the advantage of being able to stay in the ground in Southern climates where freezing is intermittent, just cover them with 8-inches of straw or mulch and pull as needed all winter. If the winter is cold in the South, leeks may get a little woody but can still be used for braises and soups.
Harvest: late summer, when the foliage dies back.
Cure: in a single layer on newspaper, in a dark, well ventilated, cool area; 50 to 60 degrees; two weeks.
Store: in a perforated cardboard box to allow for air flow. Baskets work well if they have a more open weave. Cover with newspaper to shield from the light. Light will turn potatoes green, rendering them inedible.
Grow: Beets, Carrots, ParsnipsEarly Wonder Beets
These tasty trios can be sown for winter storage in late June or July. Try Early Wonder Beet and Little Fingers Carrot.
Harvest: at maturity. Cut off all but ½" of foliage, do not cut off root. Brush roots gently to remove any excess soil.
Cure: No curing needed.
Storage: Constant temperature between 32 and 40 degrees, with 90 to 95 percent humidity. This means a refrigerator, or store in a 5 gallon bucket of damp sand, alternating layers of sand with a layer of carrots and beets. Top the last layer with damp sand to cover all, keep in a cool room and dig for the roots as needed.
Grow: SquashDelicata Squash
Try this winter staple: Delicata Squash.
Harvest: The key to storage is leaving some stem attached.
Cure: in a warm 75 to 80 degree spot for about 10 days, the outer skin should be very firm.
Store: in 50 to 60 degrees is optimal, and good ventilation is key. Use any fruit showing signs of decay first.
Visit Sustainable Seed Company's website for more tips and growing tricks for your region.