B. Rosie Lerner
Purdue Extension


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Putting Vegetables By for Winter


Remember when your grandmother talked about putting food "by" for winter? There are several methods of preserving and storing our garden produce for later enjoyment, including freezing, canning and cold storage. The method of choice depends on the specific produce item, as well as more personal factors such as taste preferences, amount of time available and know-how.

For busy gardeners, storing produce may provide a relatively easy, quick way to enjoy your harvest in winter months. Though most gardeners today do not have access to "root cellars," many crops can be stored in basements, cellars, outbuildings and pits, as long as adequate ventilation is available.

Root crops tend to be the best choices for long-term storage. Potatoes, beets, turnips, rutabagas, carrots and parsnips can last three-to-four months or longer, under ideal conditions. Non-root vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, winter squash, onions, garlic and mature green tomatoes may keep up to four weeks or longer.

Start with fresh, sound produce that is free from cuts, cracks, bruises, or other insect or mechanical injury. Damaged specimens can spoil the rest of the supply. Handle produce carefully to prevent bruising or cutting surfaces. Use only containers that have smooth inner surfaces, free from any protrusions such as wire staples or splinters.

Specific pre-storage handling procedures, as well as optimum temperature and relative humidity, will vary with the crop. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkins, garlic and dry onions should be "cured" before storage. Curing allows time for the skins to toughen, cuts to seal and excess moisture to dry down, which in turn leads to longer keeping quality.

For more information on storing and preserving produce at home, see the following Purdue Extension bulletins.

Storing Fruits and Vegetables at Home

How to Select, Store, and Prepare Fresh Produce

Drying Foods at Home

Freezing Vegetables at Home

Freezing Fruit at Home


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox