Growing for Winter Storage: Extending the Harvest in the Midwest

Grow these vegetables that thrive in the summer to stow away for winter enjoyment!

My farm, the Sustainable Seed Company, is located in northern California, and our growing season is nearly eight months long. My business is seeds; we grow heirloom seeds on the farm and sell to gardeners and farmers all over the country. When I talk with gardeners in the Midwest, I am often asked what varieties of seed will do well with the shorter growing season, and what varieties to grow for storage over the long Midwestern winters.

A variety of summer grown crops can be grown for winter storage:

Potatoes, onions, beets, carrots, parsnips, garlic, winter squashes, and some turnips will remain fresh if you choose the right variety and store properly.

When harvesting 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 can be eaten immediately.

Grow: Garlic

Nootka Rose Garlic

For winter keeping, you'll want to grow Nootka Rose. Plant late spring, March or April will yield in mid to late summer.

Cure: Brush off any soil. Allow bulbs to dry for three to four weeks in a cool, shady or dark, dry space.

Store: Optimum temperature for storing garlic is 35 to 40 degrees in complete darkness.

Grow: Potatoes easy to grow in containers or raised beds, try Mountain Rose Variety.

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 with an open weave or lined with burlap will work well. Cover with burlap or newspaper to shield from the light. Light will turn potatoes green, rendering them inedible.

Grow: Beets, Carrots, Parsnips

Bulls Blood Beet

Beets, Carrots, Parsnips can be sown for winter storage in late June or July. Try Bulls Blood Beet or Danvers 126 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% 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, keep in a cool room and dig for the roots as needed.

Grow: Squash

Amish Pie Squash

Amish Pie Squash is the perfect winter staple.

Harvest: The key to storage is leaving some stem attached.

Cure: In a warm 75 to 80 degree spot for about ten days, the outer skin should be very firm.

Store: Squash don't need as cool a space as the other keepers, a bit warmer at 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 ideas on what vegetables to grow for winter storage.


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