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How to Harvest, Cure and Store 20 Storage Crops

Learn how to harvest, cure and store 20 favorite storage crops — from beans and potatoes to cabbage and carrots. 

By Barbara Pleasant 

More information about food storage, including tips and tricks from our readers, can be found in Food Storage: 20 Crops That Keep and How to Store Them.

Crops for Cool Storage (45-60 degrees F)

These easy-to-store crops are best kept in a cool place, which could be a basement, an unheated bedroom or an attached garage.

  Harvesting and Curing  Storage 
Dry beans Gather pods as they dry to tan and plants turn
yellow, but before pods shatter. Dry whole
pods in a warm, dry place until crisp. Shell
beans and continue drying in open containers
at room temperature for two weeks.
Store in airtight jars in a cool, dark place. Freezing dried
beans kills any insects present.
Grain corn Gather ears after the plants and husks dry to tan,
but before the weather turns cool and damp.
Remove husks. Dry ears in a warm, well-ventilated
place for at least a week. Continue to dry until
half of the kernels fall when ears are twisted
between two hands.
Store whole, dry ears in boxes or bins in a cool, dry place.
Bring batches into a warm spot near radiant heat for a few
days to lower moisture content, which will make it easier
to remove kernels.
Garlic Dig, then pull when plant is still 60 percent green.
Fewer than six leaves should appear healthy.
Cure in a warm (80 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer),
well-ventilated place for at least two weeks. Trim
back tops to 4 inches, and then cure another week.
Trim again before storing.
Store in boxes or mesh bags in a cool place with moderate
humidity, such as a cool basement.
Onion Pull when at least half of the tops are dead or have
fallen over. Avoid harvesting in wet weather.
Cure in a warm (80 degrees or warmer), shady,
well-ventilated place for a week. Trim back tops,
and then cure two weeks more. Trim again before
storing.
Store in boxes or mesh bags in a cool place with moderate
humidity.
Potato Harvest before soil temperatures fall below 55
degrees to minimize bruising. Protect from sun.
Wash only to remove clods of soil. Cure in a
cool, dark, moist place (55 to 60 degrees) for
two to three weeks.
Store in closed boxes or cloth-covered baskets in a cool
place with moderate humidity, or store in buried containers.
Pumpkin Cut ripe fruits from the vine, leaving a short stub
of stem attached. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove
soil. Cure in a well-ventilated place with warm room
temperatures (70 to 80 degrees) for one to two
weeks.
Store in bushel baskets or on shelves in a cool place with
moderate humidity.
Shallot Pull when the tops are at least half-dead. Avoid
harvesting in wet weather. Cure in a warm (80
degrees or warmer), well-ventilated place for a
week. Trim back tops, and then cure two weeks
more.
Store in boxes or mesh bags in a cool place with moderate
humidity.
Sweet potato Dig while the weather and soil are still warm, at
least a month before your first fall frost. Cure in a
warm (85 degrees or warmer), humid place for one
to two weeks until all skin wounds have healed.
For perfect conditions, place jugs of hot water into
a large cooler.
Store at cool room temperature (55 to 60 degrees) and
moderate humidity. Avoid chilling.
Winter squash Cut ripe fruits from the vine, leaving a short stub of
stem attached. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove
soil. Cure in a well-ventilated place with warm room
temperatures (70 to 80 degrees) for one to two
weeks.
Store in bushel baskets, shallow containers or on shelves
in a cool place with moderate humidity.

Crops for Cold Storage (32-45 degrees F)

Very low refrigerator temperatures (32 to 35 degrees) prolong the storage life of these fruits and vegetables, but many can also be stored in slightly higher temperatures using time-tested, low-tech methods. According to Iowa State University, these crops can be stored for at least two months when provided proper conditions.

  Harvesting and Curing  Storage 
Apple Pick when seeds are dark brown and fruits come away
with a moderate tug. Choose mid- and late-season
apples for storage. Sort carefully to remove blemished
fruits. Wrap best fruits individually in paper. Promptly
refrigerate to slow the ripening process.
Store in refrigerator or another very cold place, in
perforated plastic bags or waxed boxes to maintain high
humidity. Check weekly.
Beet Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one quarter-
inch, but do not trim roots. Wash in cool water. Pat
dry.
Refrigerate beets in plastic bags or pack in damp sand in a
sealed container and store in a cold basement, garage or root
cellar.
Cabbage Harvest before outermost leaves start losing color, or
before hard freeze. Remove outer leaves.
Refrigerate in plastic bags or plant trimmed cabbage heads
with roots attached in buckets of damp sand in a root cellar
or cold greenhouse.
Carrot* Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one half-inch.
Wash gently in cool water. Pat dry. Refrigerate in
plastic bags.
Refrigerate or pack in damp sand in a sealed container and
store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.
Celeriac* Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one quarter-
inch and cut off long roots. Shake off soil but do not
wash. Refrigerate in plastic bags.
Refrigerate or pack in damp sand in a sealed container and
store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.
Celery Before hard freeze, lift plants with soil attached to
roots. Transplant to a shallow bin or bucket, or a
bed in a cold greenhouse. Keep celery roots moist
to wet, but keep foliage dry. Harvest stalks as
needed by cutting them with a sharp knife.
Store celery in a cool garage or greenhouse and harvest
stalks until only small hearts remain. Plants that make it
through winter can be replanted outdoors in spring.
Established plants are often hardy to Zone 7 and do not
require lifting.
Leek Dig, and then pull leeks before hard freeze.
Transplant to a shallow bin or bucket, or a bed in a
cold greenhouse. Trim back tops by half their length
after transplanting. Move to a cold place where the
roots will not freeze.
Store leeks in a cool garage or greenhouse and harvest as
needed until they are gone. Replant trimmed-off roots to a
tray of lightly moist soil. Most will grow into new plants.
Parsnip* Leave some parsnips in the ground to dig in early
spring. Harvest most before hard freeze. Trim tops
to one half-inch, wash in cool water. Pat dry.
Refrigerate in plastic bags.
Parsnips can be kept refrigerated in plastic bags, or packed
in damp sand in a sealed container and stored in a cold
basement, garage or root cellar.
Pear Pick as green fruits turn a lighter shade of green.
Seeds should be medium to dark green, with fruits
quite hard. Cure in a cool, 40- to 50-degree place
for a week to promote even ripening. Sort carefully
to remove blemished fruits. Wrap best fruits
individually in paper.
Store in refrigerator or very cold place, below 40 degrees,
in perforated plastic bags or waxed boxes to maintain high
humidity. Check weekly.
Rutabaga* Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one
half-inch; also cut off taproot. Wash in cool water.
Pat dry. Refrigerate in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
Rutabagas can be kept refrigerated, or packed in damp
sand in a sealed container and stored in a cold basement,
garage or root cellar.
Turnip* Harvest before hard freeze. Trim tops to one
half-inch, but do not trim roots. Wash in cool water.
Pat dry. Refrigerate in plastic bags.
Refrigerate or pack in damp sand in a sealed container
and store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.
*Sensitive to ethylene gases given off by apples and other fruits. 

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on .





Post a comment below.

 

Elsie Swain
11/23/2012 8:21:03 PM
Thanks for all the great information. I did notice however, that Potato did not have a star by it for sensitivity to ethylene gas and I have read many places since I started studying home gardening that potatoes are very sensitive to this gas and it is usually highly recommended not to store them next to apples for this reason. Was this a disproved myth, an oversight, or just prior wrong info? Just wondering, thanks.

Polly VandenBroek
9/28/2012 4:57:22 PM
I put my apples in a insulated cooler with a cup of water in it. I leave it in my Garage. Check weekly. As michigan weather dip into single digits, for a prolonged time. I then wrap my cooler in a moving blanket. Crisp apples all winter long. You may have to remove a few bad ones. I have been storing my apples like this for years....

Gerry McArthur
9/21/2012 11:14:00 PM
I put beets and carrots in sand or wood sawdust. A layer of sand or sawdust and a layer of the vegetable not touching each other. Keep in cool place, best just above freezing. Make sure sawdust does not contain woods that will impart taste to vegetables EG: paints, treated, or smelly woods. I kept some from October, November into late Spring, April and May. Carrots were growing hair but still firm. Some Beets were sprouting but still firm. I also kept potatoes in a dark cool place in open plastic crates with lots of air circulation. They also lasted the winter. Of course sprouting but still firm. Yukon gold was a good keeper.

U.S.Business
8/16/2012 7:17:53 PM
Thank you so much to share this vauable methods. I think we should set up a ' CLUB" for people like us to share and enjoy our experiences and havest . Best regards. Blue Jay





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