To avoid unnecessary waste of this season’s garden harvest, it’s important to understand proper root vegetable storage options. It is important to remember that only healthy, disease-free produce should be stocked.
The duration and effort to store these vegetables varies. The first storage category is cold, damp storage. Cold, damp storage is defined as 32-40 F with 90-95 percent relative humidity. Turnips can be kept for up to five months (be sure to store without the tops). Carrots have a shelf life of up to eight months and should be stored without tops. Parsnips can be kept for up to four months. Don’t grow and they have the best sweetness after two weeks of storage at 32 F. Potatoes can be stored for up to six months and should be cured at 50-60 F or 14 days before storage. Swedes have a shelf life of up to four months, do not grow and give off odors. Beets have a shelf life of up to four months, can be waxed, and give off odors.
Cabbage fruits should also be stored cool and moist. Broccoli can be kept for up to two weeks. Cabbage has a shelf life of up to five months, but it is not recommended to store it in the basement as the odor will spread throughout the house. Cauliflower can be kept for up to three weeks. Kohlrabi can be kept for up to two months and should be stored uncovered.
The next storage category is cool, dry storage, which is defined as 50-60 F and 60 percent relative humidity. Squashes are stored for up to two months and are very sensitive to temperatures below 45 F. Winter squash is stored for two to six months depending on variety. Field hardening is the best option.
Finally, there’s cold, dry storage — that’s 32-40 F and 65 percent relative humidity. Onions ripen at room temperature for two to four weeks before storage. Onions should not be stored near apples or potatoes as the apples and potatoes will absorb the onion flavor.
In general, store root crops in layers of moist sand, peat or peat moss, or in a perforated plastic bag. This helps provide the necessary air movement to prevent condensation and helps prevent shrinkage and extend shelf life. Of course, it is then important to ensure good ventilation and to store the products in an area where they will not suffer rodent damage.
To achieve ideal temperatures, use straw, hay or wood shavings to insulate bags of produce in areas where temperatures would drop too low and cause losses. In general, expect a 25 percent reduction in shelf life for every 10 degrees increase in temperature.
Finally, check your products to make sure they aren’t starting to mold or go bad. Discard anyone showing signs before they affect others.
This article was submitted by Katie Drewitz, University of Minnesota Extension.