Now that we are practically halfway through October and the tomatoes and peppers have all been turned into sauce and salsa, it’s about time to figure out what else we’ll be eating in November and onward!
Fall weather brings with it a serious bounty, including crops that have been growing for many months (squash, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, onions) and shorter season veggies that we also see in spring (kale, radishes, spinach, pak choi, and more). Many of these can be processed now and consumed on snowy days later on, and some can simply be stored for winter eating.
greens to process for winter
Sweet fall greens, including kale, arugula, spinach, and chard, can be blanched and then frozen for use in winter soups, or even to saute later and serve with eggs, pasta, or whatever else is on the menu. These greens really are sweeter than in the spring. Colder weather and shortening daylight periods trigger an increase in sugar production that makes fall greens especially tasty.
We have a vacuum sealer for preserving frozen greens, but we also like to use up plastic bags for freezing. The greens are placed in a clean plastic bag and wrapped up tightly, and this bundle is placed in a freezer bag that zips closed. Multiple small bundles can be placed in one freezer bag.
fall crops to refrigerate
Not everyone is aware of the amazing storage potential of many vegetables, especially root crops. The following veggies will store for 2 months or more, loosely bagged in the fridge: carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes, watermelon radishes, purple daikon radishes, black Spanish radishes, rutabaga, and celeriac.
‘Loosely bagged’ in this case means allowing for a very small amount of airflow through the opening of the bag, which I accomplish by loosely folding over the top of the bag, never tying it closed or wrapping tightly. Most of these vegetables store best in a cold, humid environment, and loosely wrapping them achieves this fairly well. Compostable or porous bags will not work, unfortunately, as a fridge is a drying environment and those materials will allow moisture to escape from your food. Any time the above veggies becomes soft, it is because of moisture loss. Even storing things like carrots and beets in the crisper drawer is only effective for about a week because they begin to dry out and soften.
For especially fresh storage vegetables, occasionally remove the veggies and shake out the bags, especially if excess moisture has built up: humidity is good, but lots of liquid water can bring on mold formation.
fall crops to NOT refrigerate
Certain vegetables store better at warmer temperatures (squash) and others are more difficult to keep in the fridge because of humidity requirements (onions). We have success storing winter squash in a cold room during winter, ideally 50 to 60 degrees. Humidity should be around 50%, so a humidifier could be handy, especially after December, when the air tends to dry out. Not all squash stores equally well! Pie pumpkins, spaghetti squash, and delicata, notably, are excellent in fall but don’t expect them to last into winter.
Storage onions and garlic are ones that have been properly cured and have dry skins that may peel off easily. For home storage, we find that storing onions, shallots, and garlic with winter squash works great. Ideal storage temperature, in a well-ventilated location, is 45 to 55 degrees. This can be difficult to achieve in a compact apartment, but the right mudroom or insulated porch/entrance area can work.
Refrigerating squash will reduce storage life from cold damage, and is not recommended. Onions and other alliums can be refrigerated for short periods, but the cold conditions can cause them to become soft faster, as starches in the onion are converted to sugars.
Here’s to warm winter soups and roasted veggies, and to enjoying the farmers market haul months after we close up for the season!
Thanks for reading.