Cure Vegetables for Year-Round Storage (Even Without a Root Cellar)

Reader Contribution by Melissa K. Norris and Pioneering Today Academy
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Melissa K. Norris shares her kitchen self-sufficiency expertise as part of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRFood Preservation Course. Register to watch her videos and more from some of leading experts in food curing and storage.

Many vegetables will store for months, up to a year, even without a root cellar or basement, if they are properly harvested and cured beforehand.

Many homes of old used root cellars (modern homes use basements) without refrigeration to store their potatoes, apples, onions, and winter squash for the year.

Unfortunately, with the rise of refrigerators and large supermarkets giving society the ability to purchase fruits and vegetables year-round, many home gardeners lost the knowledge of curing their produce for long-term storage or thought they needed a basement or root cellar in order to be successful.

Good news is: You can use root cellar techniques to store your crops even without a garage, crawlspace, root cellar, or basement.

Use your closet space. I live in a manufactured home and successfully store garlic, onions, and spaghetti squash for 12 months in a back closet. Butternut and acorn squash last for six to nine months. Pumpkin have the shortest shelf life for us, lasting three to five months, without any form of refrigeration.

We use the back closet, because it has no outside windows (sunlight will greatly shorten the shelf-life) and is furthest away from our woodstove (aka heat source). The average temperature ranges from 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the year.

Stems on. The first step is harvesting vegetables when they are fully ripe, but not past their peak. An often overlooked, but critical part of the harvest, is leaving the stems on produce. This is especially true for apples, pumpkins, and winter squash.

The stem keeps oxygen out, which greatly slows oxidation and decay. As the stem dries, it is a good visual indicator your pumpkins and winter squash are close to being fully cured and ready to move into storage.

In my video, learn best harvest techniques, temperatures and time frames for curing each specific crop, signs curing is complete and best storage practices for year-round storage.

Melissa K. Norrisis a 5th-generation homesteader who helps hundreds of thousands of people each month to use simple modern homesteading for a healthier and self-sufficient life through her website,, popularPioneering Today podcast, thePioneering Today Academy, and her books. She lives with her husband and two kids in their own little house of the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. Connect with Melissa on Instagram, Facebook, andYouTube, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.

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