Growing Fruit and Vegetables: Storing

Storing fruit

Apples and pears are the only fruit which can be stored for any length of time (apart from such storage methods as freezing and bottling). Early and mid-season varieties will not keep for more than a few weeks and are not worth storing. Late varieties, however, can be stored for many months, some keeping well until late winter or early spring. Late varieties actually improve in flavour when kept in store. Put them into storage as soon as possible after picking.

Apples can be wrapped individually in special oiled wraps, obtainable from horticultural suppliers; newspaper makes a good substitute. This prevents shrivelling and the spread of ‘storage rot’, which causes fruit to rot completely and can quickly travel through a batch of apples. Another good method is to place a few, four or five specimens, in polythene bags, closed at the top. Such apples must be completely free of any disease or injury.

If wrapped individually, you should then place the fruit in single layers in shallow boxes or trays. Store apples in a cool, frost-proof place such as a garden shed, garage, cellar or unheated room indoors. Apples keep best in a humid atmosphere and therefore should not be stored in a warm place with dry air. A low, even temperature is desirable— about 4.5-7C (40-45°F). Check the fruit regularly, about once a month, and remove any that are seen to be rotting. Pears for storing should not be wrapped but can be placed in trays as for apples. They must have a more humid atmosphere than apples and will ripen better if the temperature is slightly higher than for apples—about 10-12°C (50-55°F). A cool room in the house is a good storage place. Inspect the fruit regularly and once they seem to be almost ripe, move them to a warm room so that they will finish ripening. Be sure to remove any rotting fruit.

Storing vegetables

Those vegetables which will store well are mostly root crops, such as carrots, potatoes, parsnips, swedes, turnips and beetroots. Onions and shallots also store well and mature marrows can be stored for winter use. Tomatoes, if picked green, will keep for several weeks and will ripen in a dark, warm place.

There are various methods of storing root crops. Large quantities can be stored in a ‘clamp’—a heap of vegetables in the garden covered with straw and soil.

The clamp should be made in a fairly dry position in the garden—preferably on higher ground than the surrounding area so that rainwater will drain away from it.

The first step in making a clamp is to spread a 15 cm (6”) layer of dry straw on the ground. The area of this will depend on the quantity of vegetables to be stored. Then place the roots carefully in a cone-shaped heap on this layer and cover it with another 15 cm (6”) layer of dry straw. Next, cover the heap with a 15 cm (6”) layer of soil, firmed and smoothed well with the back of your spade as you proceed. Leave a gap, or gaps, depending on the size of the clamp, in the soil on top, and pull some straw through to ensure good ventilation. Take the soil from the base of the heap by digging out a trench around the clamp as you cover it. This trench should finally encircle the clamp; its purpose is to carry rainwater away from the crop inside.

If frost threatens, remove the ventilating tuft of straw and pack the hole with soil. In very frosty weather you should cover the clamp with a further layer of straw.

To remove vegetables from a clamp clear just enough of the soil and straw to enable you to extract the roots. Then immediately close up the clamp again.

It is not easy to check roots in a clamp for storage rots so do ensure you store only really sound, undamaged roots.

If you have only small quantities of root vegetables to store and you have sufficient room in a cool, dry, frost-proof shed or garage then they may be stored inside. Potatoes can be stored between layers of dry straw, or in sacks. Do make certain, however, that potatoes are kept completely dark, otherwise they will turn green and be unfit for eating. If in doubt whether a sack excludes light, cover it with some other material such as an old piece of carpet.

Beetroots, carrots, swedes and turnips can be stored in deep boxes of dry garden soil, peat or sand. Make alternate layers of packing material and roots, finishing off with a layer of sand or soil. Parsnips are stored in the same way except that they last best in slightly moist soil.

Onions and shallots should be stored in a dry, frost-proof place; this must also be cool, as a very hot atmosphere may cause the bulbs to shrivel. A cool room indoors is a good place to store them. Onions and shallots are best stored in a single layer in a shallow tray: slatted trays or boxes are ideal as then there will be good air circulation around the bulbs. They can also be hung in long strings from the ceiling of a shed, again ensuring plenty of air round them. Onions are prone to rot in store so check them regularly and remove any which are starting to rot. Store only undamaged bulbs. Any onions which have run to seed are best not stored as they do not keep for long. Onions which have run to seed have a very thick ‘neck’ or stem and the bulbs are generally much smaller than normal. Onions and shallots can generally be kept right round to the following late spring, early summer—or even later.

Mature marrows can easily be stored in a cool, dry, frost-proof place — preferably on a shelf in a spare room indoors. They need no preparation apart from a thorough inspection to ensure they are undamaged.

Vegetables stored out of doors or in a shed or garage may attract rats and mice. Keep an eye open for these animals and set traps or lay bait if there are any signs of trouble, such as droppings or gnawed crops. If you have a serious infestation, call in the local Rodent Officer.

All vegetables should be put into store as soon as possible after harvesting, once you are sure they are dry and undamaged.

If you find that your shed or garage is not as frost-proof as you thought, then give extra protection to your vegetables in very severe spells by covering them with a thick layer of straw—or even old newspapers. Frost can ruin some crops, especially potatoes and beetroot.

Herbs, when gathered, are tied loosely in bundles and hung upside down in a warm, dark, dry, airy place until they are completely dry and brittle. At this stage they are generally crushed and stored in glass jars, to be used whenever needed in the kitchen.

Dealing with a glut of crops

How does one deal with a glut of crops? If they are storable, they will present no problem. But if they are kinds that will not store, all one can do is to try and eat them as soon as possible or give them away, unless you have a freezer. This is a situation in which a freezer is invaluable. Do not forget that many fruit and vegetables can be preserved by bottling, pickling or making into jams, chutneys and so on. Some vegetables can be preserved by salting them in jars: this applies especially to runner and French beans. Good planning of crop sequence before sowing will help to avoid many gluts occurring, and starting to harvest plants when slightly immature will prolong the time of picking or lifting. Even when lettuces are beginning to bolt the leaves can be stripped off individually and used.

30. July 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Growing Fruit and Vegetables: Storing

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