Do you have an abundant harvest from your garden this year? Maybe too much zucchini, or too many tomatoes. Or maybe you just bought a lot of produce on sale. Whatever the case, there are several ways to store your harvest without a root cellar.
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Root cellars are traditionally used to keep produce consumable through the winter months when fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t available. However, with modern-day refrigeration root cellars are more commonly used to store harvests from your fall vegetable garden or sale produce that doesn't fit in your fridge.
And as more people (like us) work hard to secure our family's food supply, finding storage for vegetables has become an important skill.
No matter how much room you have, use these three tips to learn how to store your harvest without a root cellar.
How to Store Your Harvest Without a Root Cellar
Depending on your available space, you could have a few great areas hiding around your home with ideal conditions for storing vegetables. Before starting a new homestead project to store your harvest, find out what the ideal conditions are for your specific types of produce. Consider your spring, summer, and favorite fall vegetables. Depending on the variety, they might require different humidity, temperature, etc.
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Try Other Indoor Storage
Attics and basements stay very cool and dry throughout the winter, ideal for storing produce in a straw-filled cardboard box. Similarly, garages also work as long as you ensure the raw vegetables don't freeze, because freezing vegetables raw doesn't always work well. Instead, keep your veggies at a comfortable temperature using plenty of straw below and above the food.
Freeze Those Fruits & Vegetables
If you have any extra freezer space, freezing your harvest will keep it fresh tasting and usable throughout the winter months. However, it’s not as simple as throwing your fruits and veggies in the freezer and forgetting about them.
Blanching your vegetables stops the natural decaying process (which still occurs even when frozen. It also helps keep the veggies fresh tasting and nutrient-filled for months in the freezer.
(Tip: post my free Veggie Blanching Cheat Sheet in your kitchen so you know how long to blanch each veggie.)
After blanching, immediately transfer the produce into ice water to stop them from overcooking. Once dried, seal them in airtight freezer bags or use a vacuum sealer to remove any excess air before freezing.
Frozen fruit can be thawed easily and quickly to use in your favorite muffin recipe, smoothies (frozen berries or peaches work well), pies, or freezer jams (don't forget to thaw the fruit first for pies or jams.)
For fruits and smaller vegetables, spread them out on a tray and freeze them before packaging. This rudimentary flash-freezing helps keep their form and avoid being frozen in chunks together.
Bury Your Harvest When You Don't Have a Root Cellar
Even without a traditional root cellar, it’s easy to create your own mini cellar in the yard.
Unused items like old fridges, trash cans, buckets, and pots can be repurposed and buried to construct a quick and easy cellar. Whatever you decide to use, make sure your underground root cellar has some ventilation.
Drilling a hole in the side and running some PVC pipe to the surface is the easiest. You will also want to make sure your receptacle has a tight lid and solid sides to keep any unwanted critters from finding their way into your bounty! As with any cellar style storage, make sure you line the bin with straw on top and below for insulation.
However you store your produce this fall, don’t let any go to waste. If you have a large harvest, there are numerous storage options to keep your fruits and veggies edible and fresh-tasting through the winter.
Just remember to store them in a cool, ventilated space with little to no light, and a suitable humidity level for the type of produce. If these options won’t work for you, pickling, canning or dehydrating is another great way to preserve your harvest.
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Read More About Root Cellars!
Farmer's Almanac: Types & Storage Tips
Common Sense Home: Root Cellars 101
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