Storing Home Grown Fruits and Vegetables

Storing Home Grown Fruits and Vegetables

Simple and preferable ways of storing efficiently, ecologically and organically

storing home grown fruits and vegetables Although we occasionally store some crops, such as pears, for a period to improve their condition, most storing is done just to extend the season for as long as possible. On the commercial scale, tremendous advances have been made, so that by careful regulation of gas, humidity and temperature, many crops can be stored for months, some even a year or more. These conditions are hard for us amateurs to duplicate, but we can keep most crops for longer if we treat them well. To be stored, any crop must be perfect, any blemish or bruise is where moulds start. There is absolutely no point in trying to store anything that has any real damage — use it up straight away or process it into juice, jelly, chutney, puree, etc.

Choose varieties suitable for storing — some early croppers are notoriously bad keepers! Waxing fruits is good for extending their life, but could help shorten yours. Some will keep as well wrapped in paper or oiled (vegetable) paper. Another early method of mould deterrence was to dip fruits in a solution of sodium bicarbonate, drying it before storing. This worked well, but left a powdery appearance. Common long-keeping fruits and vegetables, such as apples and potatoes, can be stored at home for up to a year. The major problems apart from moulds are shrivelling through water loss and the depredations of rodents and other pests.

A conventional store is too large for most of us and in the house or garage is too warm, cold or dry. I find dead deep freezers or refrigerators make excellent, compact stores. They are dark, keep the contents at a constant temperature and keep out nightly frosts. Most useful of all, they are rodent-proof, and they can even be locked to deter two-legged pests! Ventilation can be obtained by cutting small holes in the rubber door or lid seal. Condensation usually indicates insufficient ventilation, but too much draught will dry out fruits. The unit can stand somewhere dry outdoors. It is out of sight in a shed and better protected against the cold, but then may get too warm. In extreme conditions, ensure extra frost protection by putting a sealed bottle of warm water inside the unit night and morning. To save space, providing the water table is low, a dead chest freezer can be sunk into the ground and the lid painted over.

When putting crops in store it is usually best to leave them to chill at night in trays or bags and then to load them into the store in the morning when they have dried off, but before they are warm. Similarly, it is helpful to chill and dry off many crops initially by leaving the store open on cool, dry nights and closing it during the day for a week or two after filling. Most fruits are best removed from their store some time before use, so that any staleness can leave them. Care should be taken not to store early and late varieties together, or any that may cross taint.

Vegetables need to be kept separate from fruits! Obviously, do not situate your store in the same place as strong-smelling substances such as paint or creosote! Likewise, although straw is a convenient litter, if it gets damp it taints. Shredded newspaper is safer, but still has a slight smell. Dried stinging nettles are reckoned good, but dangerous to handle.

Always inspect stored crops regularly — they can go off very quickly. Remember, if only one in ten goes off every month then to have one tray after six months you have to start with two trays just to allow for the rots! So do not store everything for ages merely for the sake of it — be selective, and store well only that which you will use.

06. January 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Fruit & Veg | Tags: | Comments Off on Storing Home Grown Fruits and Vegetables


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