Storing fruits and vegetables for winter

By Grant McCarty
Local Foods and Small Farms Educator, University of Illinois Extension

As fall weather comes in, there is a decline in the growth of the fruit and vegetables you are growing. Hopefully you are still getting some yields these last weeks before the first frost as many of these plants are still able to tolerate the 50s and 60s. With this shift to a new season, now is the opportunity to stock up on produce for winter.

When considering produce storage, you want to think about your cold storage space. Many of these will need a cold area like a refrigerator to be stored. An environment of 32F is ideal for carrots, beets, cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, and others.

Another group contains potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash, and others that can be stored outside of a fridge. They should be stored in a dark area that does not get too warm.

Certain produce likes cold and dry conditions while others like cold and moist. Those that go in the fridge will like the cold and moist conditions while those that like cold and dry will not.

Humidity can be the deciding factor as to whether produce will keep its expected shelf life. Moist conditions should have 95 percent relative humidity while dry conditions should be 65 percent.

Because farmers markets are still open, this is the perfect time to be acquiring what you need this winter. By telling the growers you are planning to stock up, you may find that they have “stocking up specials.”

You may also want to reach out to them once the farmers markets have ended as into November and December, they may still have produce available for sell.

With orchards now open, many apple varieties will store well in the fridge between layers of paper bags. Consult with your orchard to determine what variety is best for cold storage.

Different produce keeps at different lengths of time. Some may store for 3-5 months while others may store from 1-2 months. By knowing the conditions your produce needs, this will lead to enjoying local produce in the winter.

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