Storing Vegetables for Winter ~ Part 2

Potatoes are harvested once the foliage has died back, although you can leave them in the soil for a couple of weeks before pulling them up, as this toughens up the skins. Cure potatoes in a cool and dark area by spreading the tubers out into seedling trays lined with newspaper. Cover the trays with a dark towel to eliminate light but allow air to circulate and let them cure for several weeks. They can be stored in cardboard boxes with holes cut in the sides and layered in shredded paper or damp sawdust or sand. Another option is to place a tarpaulin on the ground in a shady spot and cover it with a few centimetres of loose straw outdoors. Pile on potatoes and cover with more straw, a second tarp, and a thick blanket of leaves or straw. You will need to ensure that the potatoes are safe from vermin though.
Essential oils of clove, spearmint and peppermint can control potato sprouting organically.
Pumpkins are ready to be harvested when the skin is no longer shiny and the stem is beginning to go brown. Cut ripe fruits from the vine, leaving a short stub of stem attached. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove soil. Cure in a well-ventilated place with warm room temperatures for one to two weeks. For long term storage, wash the pumpkins in a very mild chlorine solution. Use one cup of chlorine to three litres of water. This will destroy bacteria which may cause the fruit to rot. Store the pumpkin in a cool, dry and dark place.
Beans of certain varieties can be dried for long-term use. Gather pods as they dry and plants turn yellow, but before pods shatter. Dry whole pods in a warm, dry place until crisp. Shell beans and continue drying in open containers at room temperature for two weeks.
Store in airtight jars in a cool, dark place. Place a bay leaf in each jar to deter insects.
Butternut can be stored the longest of all the squashes. Their smooth, hard rinds help give them the longest storage life – often six months or more – so butternuts should be eaten last. They are ready to harvest when the skin is too hard to pierce it with fingernails. Carefully cut them from the vine with a knife leaving 5cm of stalk attached to the butternut to avoid bacterial infection. They can be cured either by leaving them in small piles in the field for 10 days to 2 weeks when the weather is warm and dry, or by keeping them inside at room temperature for a month. Unlike most other vegetables, squashes and butternuts require warm, fairly dry storage conditions.
Sweet potatoes are harvested once the leaves start to yellow, usually 4-5 months after planting. Leaving the tubers in the soil after the plant has died ensures that the starch content increases and the tubers become sweeter, but the tubers must be harvested before the first frost. They will still need curing before storing – keep them in a warm and humid, well ventilated room for 5 – 10 days. Alternatively you can individually wrap the sweet potatoes in sheets of newsprint or in brown paper bags. Newspaper and brown paper bags are both fairly breathable, providing just enough air circulation to prevent the sweet potatoes from rotting too quickly. Store the individually-wrapped sweet potatoes in a cardboard box, wooden box, or wooden basket. Do not use an airtight storage container. Place an apple in the box, as it is thought that the apple will help prevent the sweet potatoes from budding.

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