Storing Root Vegetables Over the Winter
Did you have a bumper crop of potatoes sweet potatoes, carrots, beets or turnips this year? You worked hard this year to produce that crop! Here are some helpful tips on how to store them to last for use all throughout winter and into spring.
By Joy Johnson, Master Gardener
Step 1: Dry them. After harvest, remove any damaged potatoes. Leave the rest outside to dry for a couple of hours. Don’t wash them but brush off excess dirt.
Step 2: Cure them. Keep the potatoes in a dark, humid place for one to two weeks. These conditions help prevent rot. Indoors near the furnace works best. Spread out the potatoes in boxes and covered with cloth to enhance humidity. If you want to speed up this process, you can lay them out on racks or pallets, make a tent over them with light weight tarps or blankets and turn a box fan on under the tent. This will aid with drying them.
Step 3: Choose a spot. For long-term cold storage, find a storage area that’s dry and dark, such as a basement, garage or shed with plenty of ventilation. A temperature of 35° to 40° is good.
Step 4: Pack them. Pack the potatoes in a wooden crate, or something similar, with slatted sides and bottom. Alternate layers of newspaper and potatoes until the stack reaches 6 to 8 inches high. Make sure the newspaper covers the open slats so that light can’t get in.
Step 5: Keep an eye on them. Check your potatoes monthly and remove any that are beginning to rot. One rotten spud will ruin the lot. Some varieties store better than others—russet potatoes are among the best.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams
Step 1: Time your harvest correctly. Wait for dry weather to dig up sweet potatoes and yams. Wet tubers attract insects, disease and mold. Wipe all the dirt off, but don’t get them wet.
Step 2: Cure them. Lay the tubers in a warm location, similar to potato storage. Let them dry for 10 days to two weeks. Curing ensures excess moisture is drawn out, preventing mildew.
Step 3: Pack them. Box up the tubers or wrap them in newspaper. Store them in a cool pantry or closet at 55° to 60°. If no cool place is available, pack them in layers of sand in barrels or crates. The sand cushions and keeps the tubers cool, but not cold enough to freeze. Place the containers in a moderately warm basement or garage. I have a barely heated garage. We keep it around 50 degrees or cooler, so that works well.
Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Parsnips
Step 1: Trim the tops. Cut off the leafy tops. Left on, they will draw moisture from the vegetable. Brush off loose dirt and remove any damaged ones.
Step 2: Pack them. Place the root vegetables, unwashed, in boxes layered with slightly damp sand. I used Rubbermaid totes and buried the carrots, the tops that were exposed sprouted and grew very tall in the dark cool garage, but the carrots still tasted good.
Step 3: Store them. Keep them in a cool place.
Step 4: Keep an eye on them. Check regularly for spoilage and moisture, which causes rot, or dryness that could cause them to harden and split.
Store your root vegetables correctly and you can enjoy your home-grown root
vegetables all season!