Enjoy Fresh Local Food: Seasonal Storage

Enjoy fresh, local food all year long. A guide to simple seasonal storage, such as canning, freezing, dehydrating and more.

| August/September 2007

The Raleigh Farmers Market is one of five operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The Raleigh Farmers Market is one of five operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Photo by William D. Adams

This guide to fresh, local food and seasonal storage will provide all you need to know about preserving, canning, freezing, dehydrating and more.

Enjoy Fresh Local Food: Seasonal Storage

Can you name three crops that will keep easily for months in a cool closet? (Try winter squash, sweet potatoes and garlic.) Or how about vegetables that stay fresh until well after Christmas when stashed in the refrigerator, or even just a cooler in your unheated garage? (We recommend carrots, beets and potatoes.)

Buying local produce and “putting it by” (or “putting it up,” depending on your region) is a great way to support local farmers and give your family fresher, better-tasting organic food. Every bite you take — today or months from now — helps strengthen your local economy, supports more sustainable food production and brings you a step closer to a more self-sufficient life.

Plus, buying local food in bulk often can save you money on grocery bills. And as the examples above indicate, it can be as easy as going to the farmers market when your favorite fruits and veggies are in season, and learning which conditions or techniques are best for storing each crop. Whether you grow your own garden or buy produce from local growers, the following charts will help you eat more sustainably all year long.

To simplify home food storage, we’ve divided crops by preservation methods, starting with the ones that require the least time, trouble and energy. Even when canned or frozen, home-stored foods save huge amounts of energy in reduced processing, packaging, transportation and storage costs. Freezing is the most energy-intensive method of home food preservation, but you still save energy when you freeze locally grown food. Buy seasonal produce directly from growers at farmers markets or farm stands, then choose preservation methods that fit your cooking habits and time constraints, because most foods can be preserved in more than one way. 

If you need more information than what’s shown in the following charts, check out these online resources:

9/2/2013 9:56:29 AM

The PDF charts linked in the article are returning 404s. I'd really like to look at them.

9/3/2008 10:17:19 PM

great article

barbara pleasant_3
9/2/2008 7:44:25 AM

Good question, Jason. Most modern homes were not built with food storage in mind, so you have to figure out ways to make it work. If you have a small amount of something that needs high humidity, keeping it in enclosed containers (old coolers, waxed boxes, etc) is often the best way. Keep in mind that veggies give off moisture, so you don't have to do all of the humidity managing yourself. If you have a basement room that seems promising, pans of gravel (like plastic cat litter pans) placed here and there which can be lightly watered with a watering can will go a long way toward raising humidity levels. To consider many other options, I recommend looking at the Underground Storage chapter in Stocking Up, a Rodale book that's been around for 30 years. Many methods are reviewed, from root cellars to soil pits, in only 20 pages. Most libraries have the book, or you can buy a copy so you'll always have it.

8/18/2008 7:43:18 PM

Most of the "root cellar" vegtables say store with high to moderate humidity. When it gets cold in Minnesota, it gets dry, how can you keep humidity at a level that will work?

7/31/2007 4:12:15 PM

My Armenian grandmother and I used to store grape leaves for making fresh dolma in the wintertime. Stack piles of clean, fresh grape leaves (don't wash them unless they look like they need it) about 25-30 high. Lay a square piece of wax paper over a square of tin foil, place the leaves on the wax paper, and roll the whole thing up, twisting the ends like a candy wrapper. These "bon bons" can be thrown in the freezer, and seem to last indefinitely. Kristin Cavoukian Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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