Some veggies store much better than others do, a good thing to know if you are looking to eat more fresh produce from your garden all year long.
Potatoes are one of the longest keeping. Some varieties, such as 'Kennebec', will hold longer than others. Most types of spuds will last well into the winter, and possibly the spring. Although potatoes are not expensive compared to other produce, there’s another reason to grow your own. Potatoes from the market have tested as one of the worst as far as levels of pesticides is concerned, so growing your own is a healthier alternative. They don’t take up much space either, and are easy to take care of.
There are different types of cabbages that you can grow, depending on your needs. Some will last straight into spring. We grow a few different kinds here, as we both enjoy cabbage on a regular basis. Some hybrid cabbage seeds are actually named for how well they keep. Yes, cabbages take their winter storage capabilities quite seriously.
Sweet potatoes are also good keepers. Note that regardless of what the signs in the store say, what you are buying are not yams. Certainly what you grow are not yams either. Homegrown sweet potatoes are so wonderful that we have never had any left come spring, so can’t say exactly how long they last. You can count on them during the long winter nights. Be gentle when you harvest them, and careful as you let them adjust to being out of the ground. Once they are ready to store, they are strong and need no special attention.
Onions are good keepers as well, and when you grow your own you can choose what varieties you like the best. There’s a real freshness to a hand-picked onion that seems to stay with it throughout the winter months. But onions are very rarely the main ingredient in a recipe, and they are generally low in levels of pesticides. So if your growing space is limited, you may want to give it to another crop.
Speaking of space, what about winter squash (shown)? Surely the reason we have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving is because pumpkins can store well, right? And they do, as do many of their relatives. But squash are not all the same.
It has been our experience that spaghetti squash does not hold as well as most of the others. And, unfortunately, acorn squash comes in second. I say unfortunately because these are my two favorites, and I would love nothing more than to be able to eat either of them homegrown in late winter. Sigh.
A general rule of thumb for winter squash is the thicker the skin, the longer it will hold. Some squash even tastes better after it has been in storage a month or two. Good examples of this are the 'Waltham Butternut' and the 'Grey Kabocha'. Growing these beauties in your garden will occupy some space though (as will any winter squash). Some gardeners train theirs to grow up fences. We let ours grow into the pathways and just circumvent the vines as needed.
A small price to pay to enjoy some fresh homegrown veggies, even as the snow flies.
Gardening Jones is a master gardener in Pennsylvania. Learn more atgardeningjones.com/blog.
Create the ideal space to store your homegrown vegetables with Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables.
Learn how to grow, harvest and store your own fresh vegetables and fruits in The Year-Round Harvest: A Seasonal Guide to Growing, Eating and Preserving the Fruits and Vegetables of Your Labor. It includes recipes, too!
Get a low-cost guide to growing 5 favorite root vegetables in Horticulture's "Root Crops" download.