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Storage Crop Recommendations

STORAGE
CROP

Recommendations

Post-Harvest Handling & Storage Guidelines

Extend the selling season of storage crops with proper post harvest handling and holding conditions.

Storage crops are products that are held post-harvest in a semi-controlled or controlled environment, for use/sale over the ensuing weeks and months. Most are harvested in the fall, then held for winter storage under 4 main combinations of low-temperature/humidity: • Cold & Dry • Cold & Moist • Cool & Dry • Cool & Moist

Crops that fit into the classic storage-crop category include most — though not all — root vegetables, winter squashes, and pumpkins, and some head crops, such as cabbages. Grains, beans, and dried flowers, too, can be considered types of storage crops, though they are handled differently.

Optimal storage conditions as well as holding times vary by crop and type — and in some cases by variety, environmental conditions, and season or timing of harvest. Here's a quick guide to post-harvest handling and storage of classic storage crops. First we cover some practical considerations, then provide the crop-by-crop specifics — from alliums to turnips — including a few recommendations for favorites and top-performing varieties.

Practical Considerations

A lot of people shy away from storage because they think they have to maintain perfect conditions to keep the produce in storage as long as possible, but that's not necessarily the case. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

  • We give the ideal temperature ranges for storage, but you can get a decent storage life out of most crops even if conditions are not perfect.
  • For all the crops that should be stored at 32°F/0°C, you can expect to get half the storage life (2–3 months for some things may be quite reasonable) by storing them in temps up to 50°F/10°C, as long as there is high humidity (except for onions, which like it a little drier).
  • A lot of people live in climates where they have this type of situation in their garage, basement, or mud room. Older structures and foundations may even have an existing root cellar or the potential makings (or ruins) of one.
  • If you can get as close as possible to the target temperature and humidity, and if the crop is prepared properly, it will keep for a good while.
  • We also recommend storing carrots, beets, turnips, leeks, celeriac, and all brassicas in perforated bags. Most crops will be able to maintain high humidity better if they are somewhat enclosed, but the bags must breathe well enough for air exchange to prevent decay.
  • Another thing to try to keep in mind is to eat what you store, and don't wait! Some people try to stretch the life of their storage crops as long as possible, and in doing so can be reluctant to eat them early on. This can really backfire if things start to rot for whatever reason. Even under ideal conditions, crops can go bad at any time. You are better off having enjoyed the last of your veggies in February than you are throwing out half your stash in April.
Alliums
Leeks: Bandit & Lexton
'Bandit' and 'Lexton' can be stored in the field into winter.

Leeks — Cold & Moist

  • Dig, then pull the leeks before the first hard freeze.
  • Transplant them in shallow bins or buckets, then trim the tops to half their length.
  • Store at 32°F/0°C and 90–100% humidity, and harvest as needed. (Or store in perforated bags.)
  • Trim roots and peel outer leaves before selling.

Tip: Bandit and Lexton can be stored in the field into winter.



Onions — Cold & Dry

    Redwing Storage Onion
    'Redwing,' 'Patterson,' and 'Cortland' can be stored 6+ months.
  • To harvest, pull onions from the ground when half or more of the tops are dead or falling over, the necks are tight, and the scales are dry. Harvesting onions when the foliage is too green will make it difficult to cure them well. Harvest when the weather is dry; harvesting after a rainfall or during high humidity increases susceptibility to post-harvest disease.
  • Cure in a warm (80°F/27°C) location with good air circulation for 1 week.
  • Trim tops, then cure for an additional 2 weeks, and retrim as needed.
  • After curing, rub onions in hands to remove excess skin and soil.
  • Place them in boxes or mesh bags and store in a cool place with moderate humidity.
  • Varieties classified as hard storage onions will keep up to 6 months when stored at 32°F/0°C and 65–70% humidity.

Tip: Many onion varieties are suitable for storage, but some have greater storage potential than others. For specifics on different varieties, refer to our Full-Size Onion Comparison Chart.

Brassicas
Brussels Sprouts: Diablo
'Diablo' and 'Nautic' can be harvested after frost.

Brussels Sprouts — Cold & Moist

  • Harvest when heads are about 1" in diameter.
  • Once cut, they should be stored in perforated bags at 32°F/0°C and 90–100% humidity.
  • Whole stalks can also be harvested and stored for up to 1½ months.

Tip: Diablo and Nautic have good cold tolerance, and can be left in the field to harvest after frost.



Cabbage — Cold & Moist

  • Harvest when heads are compact and firm.
  • Store with a few of the outside wrapper leaves at 32°F/0°C and 90–100% humidity.
  • Clean before selling.

Tip: Storage No. 4 will keep until spring from a late fall harvest if held at the conditions noted above.

Cucurbits

Pumpkins — Cool & Dry

  • Harvest ripe pumpkins when the shells harden, before frost.
  • Cut the fruits from the vine, leaving a stub of the desired length for a handle.
  • Remove earth and any other matter clinging to the shell with a damp cloth.
  • Cure at 70–80°F/21–26°C for 1–2 weeks in an area with good air circulation.
  • Fruits can stored in bushel baskets, wooden crates, or shelves.
  • Store at 50–60°F and 50–70% humidity.

Tip: Long Island Cheese, Musque de Provence, and Baby Bear are all renowned for long storage as well as great eating qualities. These pumpkin varieties will keep up to 5 months after frost at the conditions noted above.

Winter Squash — Cool & Dry

  • Winter squash should be harvested when the shells acquire a measure of hardness, and before frost.
  • Cure in the field to dry, and toughen shells by exposing them to sun, on average, for 5–7 days prior to storing.
  • Ideal storage conditions are 50–55°F/10–16°C at 50–70% humidity, with good air circulation.

Tip: The many different types and varieties of winter squash vary considerably as to how long they take to cure and when they achieve their best flavor. Delicata are best eaten within the first couple of months, whereas Waltham Butternut and our favorite, Winter Sweet kabocha, will store up to 6 months. See our convenient Winter Squash Curing & Storage Chart for average curing times and storage potential. To learn more about the factors that govern eating quality in winter squash and edible pumpkins, read our article on Eating Quality in Winter Squash.

Root Crops

Beets & Carrots • Post-Harvest Handling Tips

  • Some say to wash these root crops before storage. We do not agree, for two reasons: getting them wet can encourage decay, and washing them will remove much of the beneficial bacteria that occupy the thin film of soil on the roots. These bacteria actually help fight decay.
  • Instead, we recommend gently removing soil clods from the roots, being careful not to use anything abrasive that may scratch the root surface.
  • It helps a lot to harvest in dry conditions, when the soil will easily slough off of the roots.
  • Wash them as you remove them from storage for eating throughout the winter.
  • For beets and carrots, it is also important to trim the tops off close to the root — leave about ¼" of material there. Leaving any more than this will invite decay, but not leaving anything will hasten the drying out of the root.

Beets — Cool & Moist

  • Harvest before the first hard freeze, at about 1¼–3" in diameter.
  • Trim tops (stems and leaves) to ¼" in length.
  • The taproot should be cut off with a sharp knife prior to storage.
  • To store, pack in perforated plastic bags or in sealed containers filled with damp sand.
  • Beets of all varieties will keep for 3–5 months when stored at 32°F/0°C and 90–100% humidity.

Carrots — Cold & Moist

  • Harvest carrots for storage before the first hard freeze.
  • Trim tops to ¼" length. To store, place in peforated bags, or pack in damp sand in sealed containers.
  • Carrots are sensitive to ethylene gas emitted by certain fruits (such as apples), so be sure to keep them separate.
  • Store at 32°F/0°C and 90–100% humidity.
  • Remove tops and wash roots prior to storing.

Tip: Bolero is the best variety for harvesting in late fall and will hold for up to 6 months under the abovenoted conditions.


Celeriac — Cold & Moist

  • Harvest celeriac prior to the first hard freeze.
  • Trim tops to ¼" in length.
  • Store harvested celeriac with soil and roots intact.
  • Can be placed in perforated bags or packed in damp sand in a sealed container for storage.
  • Clean before selling.

Tip: Brilliant is an excellent choice for storing, with large, round, solid roots that will hold nearly as long as a carrot under the same conditions.


Kohlrabi — Cold & Moist

  • Harvest storage kohlrabi while the tap root is still round, before it begins to elongate.
  • Remove leaf stems and tops prior to storing.
  • Can be placed in peforated bags for storage.
  • Store at 32°F/0°C and 90–100% humidity.

Tip: Kossak maintains its dense white flesh — still sweet, delicious, and tender — with storage for 2–4 months.


Potatoes — Cold & Moist

  • In the fall, once the foliage is dry and the tubers have reached full size, dig the entire crop.
  • To minimize bruising, harvest before soil temperatures drop below 55°F/13°C.
  • Remove larger soil clumps but do not wash.
  • Keep from light.
  • Cure at 50–60°F/10–15°C for 2–3 weeks before storage. Make sure surfaces are dry before placing in storage.
  • Store in closed boxes or cloth bags.
  • Most, though not all, potatoes will keep up to 5 months when stored at 40–50°F/4–10°C and 90% humidity.
  • Flavor can be enhanced at lower storage temperatures.

Rutabaga — Cold & Moist

  • Harvest rutabaga when roots reach the desired size, preferably after a couple of good frosts.
  • Remove tops.
  • Store at 32°F/0°C and 90–100% humidity.
  • Clean roots may be waxed prior to delivery at market to prevent drying, but this step is not necessary.

Tip: Helenor and Laurentian will keep for 4–6 months under the conditions noted above.


Sweet Potatoes — Cool & Moderately Moist

  • Sweet potatoes can be dug while the weather is still warm, as early as a month before the first frost.
  • Do not wash, but brush off large clumps of soil.
  • Cure in a warm (85°F/29°C) place for 1–2 weeks, allowing skin wounds to heal before storing.
  • They are sensitive to cold, but will keep for 4–7 months at 60°F/16°C and 85% humidity.

Turnip — Cold & Moist

  • Harvest when the turnips have reached the desire size.
  • A light frost can enhance flavor.
  • May be waxed, but this is not necessary.
  • Store at 32°F/0°C and 90–100% humidity.

Tip: Purple Top White Globe will keep 4–5 months under the above conditions.


Learn More

Remember, it is important to inspect produce before putting it into storage and cull anything showing signs of disease or decay. Continue to monitor and cull while in storage (disease and decay spread fast). And enjoy!

More Resources

 



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