Storage Tips for Winter Produce

From Jenny Wooster, Picadilly Farm

Here are some tips for harvesting and storing produce for the winter, in a typical home without a root cellar.  Things to think about include: variety choice; harvest and post-harvest handling; storage temperature, humidity, and ventilation.

To find good places to store food in your house, pick up a max-min thermometer, and place it in different spots, to get an idea of average temperatures in each potential storage spot. It is important is to have realistic expectations about how long and how well you veggies will store, and to expect to lose some to spoilage – especially as you figure out what will store best where in your house.

Most Root Crops (carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, celeriac, parsnips, and storage radishes)
Best Varieties: Bolero carrots, Necoras carrots, Winterkeeper/Lutz beets, Detroit Dark Red beets, Misato Rose radishes.

Harvest: All can be left in the ground up until just before hard frost, usually mid-November. Carrots will start to have splits in the shoulders if there are lots of freezes and thaws before harvest. Harvest on a warm day, when the roots aren’t frozen. Parsnips will overwinter in the ground for early spring harvest. Mulched carrots may survive over winter as well (though they will more likely rot).

Storage: Store roots unwashed, at as cold a temperature as possible without freezing. A plastic bag in the fridge is great for very long storage. Or store in crates or in burlap sacks in a very cold spot in the basement – though if it is too dry, the roots will wilt. One very effective home storage method is to find a cold spot in the house, gather a few 5 gallon buckets, dump the unwashed roots in, and cover with sand. Every once in a while, check the roots – if they begin to get wilty, sprinkle a bit of water onto the sand. The sand seems to allow for a more forgiving range of temperature fluctuations. They’ll last until early spring, even if the temperature fluctuates a bit. Stored roots will likely start to sprout in early spring, when temperatures warm up consistently – so, don’t plan to have these roots until May, but perhaps until March or April. Or plan to stock whatever is left in your fridge for an additional month or two in early spring.


Best Varieties: Many are good for long storage, check your seed catalogs or ask the farmer you are buying from.

Harvest: Dig by around mid-October – don’t let them sit too long in really wet soils.

Storage: Potatoes are best stored just a little bit warmer than the root crops, around 37-40 degrees, and dark. Colder is better than warmer, though don’t let them freeze. Try attic stairs or an inside wall of your garage. Store in a crate or box (not in plastic, as condensation will lead to fast rotting). Sort them every once in a while to get rid of rotten ones.

Sweet Potatoes

Best Varieties: Beauregard and Covington are reliable, orange-fleshed sweeties in our climate.

Harvest: Harvest sweet potatoes at the end of September, early October, before too many frosts. Harvest carefully, so as not to damage them.

Storage: Sweet potatoes prefer more humidity than the normal house has, so a damp cellar may be just the place if it’s also well ventilated. They want to be stored at 50-55 degrees, no colder, with at least one air change per day. Use the smaller ones first, as the larger ones will be slower to wilt over time. We’ve found that we can only store sweet potatoes in our house until January or so before they lose their sweetness and spoil.

Winter Squash

Best Varieties: Use up delicatas and buttercup varieties first in the early winter. Butternuts store well into January. Hubbard-type squashes store longest. Nantucket Pie (also called Long Pie) is a nice long-storage, edible pumpkin.

Harvest: Bring in squash when the vines die back, in September. Don’t let the ripe fruits sit in the full sun in the garden, and take care not to nick the skins when you are picking. Keep unblemished fruits for storage. Squash will keep best if it is cured right after harvest, for several weeks at 70-80 degrees – we do this in our greenhouses with shade cloths on top of the plastic, but curing on a sun porch could also do the trick.  Keep the squash warmer than 50 degrees at night to avoid a cumulative chilling injury that would affect storage and flavor.

Storage: Store at about 50-55 degrees – a very cool cupboard in the kitchen, a not-too damp cellar, attic stairs, or a warm-ish mudroom might suffice. Well-cured squash will store into January – longer, depending on variety.  If possible, store squashes not touching each other – rot can easily spread. Check often, and use any that develop soft spots.


Varieties: Prince, Copra and Gunnison yellows; Mars and Redwing reds.

Harvest: Bring in from the garden when the tops fall over, usually  in August. Cure in a hot, dry place until the stems are totally dried down (not too sunny – a warm barn or garage loft? We do it in our greenhouse with the shade cloth on).

Storage: Onions can be stored with the squash and sweet potatoes, but prefer it even colder. If it is too warm, or too light, they’ll begin to sprout. Store in a box or crate, not a plastic bag. Sort them every once in a while to get rid of rotten ones. Expect onions to begin sprouting and softening by March or April.


Best Variety: Robust.

Harvest: Let the cobs dry on the stalk as long as possible, as long as they aren’t getting moldy – we know folks who leave them out into the winter, though we usually harvest in October and finish drying the cobs down in the greenhouse or barn.

Storage: Popcorn can be stored on the cob in a dry place – hang bunches in the house until you are ready to use them (though they can get too dry, especially around the woodstove; or they can mold if the house is too humid. Make sure critters can’t get to the kernels). Try popping a few kernels every once in a while – when they pop well, the popcorn is ready. Push the kernels off the cob and store in an airtight jar. If they are too moist going into the jar, they will mold – keep an eye out.

Burger & Fries, Please (But Make It Local)

By Marcia Passos Duffy, Our Local Table Monadnock
Reposted at Monadnock Menus

When Jessica Graveline opened Fritz restaurant in 2003 at The Center of Keene, her mind was focused on fries-not local food. But Graveline began to ponder weightier issues-such as preservation of open spaces, the survival of small farms, and the importance of contributing to the local economy-after she attended a few local food forums held in the region. “I started to realize the importance of using local – on many levels,” says Graveline. By using more local foods in her business Graveline figured she’d not only help preserve local farms, but she’d get fresher, better tasting food. Graveline started incorporating local foods gradually into the menu by adding ostrich and buffalo meat burgers. The meat was sourced from local farmers’ markets and online through Yankee Farmers’ Market based in Warner, NH. More about local meat and other farm fresh products at Fritz.

Farmers Struggle to Satisfy Appetite for Local Meat

By Elaine Grant, Posted at NHPR

As more and more people begin thinking about where their food is coming from, many turn to local sources. The growth of local fruit and vegetable markets bears that out. And it seems to be the case for meat too. Farmers would love to fill the demand for local meat… But one obstacle makes this new business particularly difficult.  There’s only one USDA-inspected slaughterhouse in New Hampshire and only a handful in the region.  And that means that farmers raising local meat have few and often troubling options.  Scheduling is obviously difficult, but it’s not the only issue.

Farm of the Month: Boulder Meadow Farm

By Jan Sevene, Monadnock Localvore Project

Boulder Meadow Farm
Glenn & Lisa Letendre
254 Rhododendron Road
Fitzwilliam, NH 03447

Love lamb? Four years ago Lisa and Glenn Letendre moved to Boulder Meadow Farm. A former horse farm, it is now home to llamas, an alpaca, chickens, and pure-bred Wensleydale sheep, raised for their prized fleece. But along with this line-up, the Letendres raise other types of sheep for meat, and just this year began selling it.

At Boulder Meadow Farm, grass-fed lamb can be purchased on the hoof or packaged and frozen.  If buyers opt not to buy a whole lamb on the hoof, Lisa says: “When the lamb is ready for market weight, they can have me bring it to the butcher. Buyers can also buy cuts out of my freezer.”

Orders for Boulder Meadow’s USDA certified meat are currently picked up at the butcher. “In another month,” Lisa says, “lamb will be sold at the farm. I’ve been raising my lambs here to market weight, now the butcher will do it USDA, to sell right off the farm.” Also, Boulder Meadow chicken can be purchased frozen, whole or in individual pieces, right at the farm.

Boulder Meadow also works with Fitzwilliam’s Steeple Chase Farm (fleece and raising lambs), and Hill Farm, (fleece and offering pigs, chickens and turkeys for meat), as part of a unique support group that helps assure the highest quality products for their customers. “It’s our work. We’re dedicated,” Lisa says.

Support your local farms. Buy local, buy fresh.

Other farm-direct meat:
Country Critters Farm
240 Forest Lake Rd.
Winchester, NH 03470
(603)  239-8657

East Hill Farm
Dave  Adams
460 Monadnock St.
Troy, NH  03465
(603) 242-6495

Pitcher Mountain Farm
Dave Weaver
2110 Rte 123N
Stoddard, NH 03462
(603) 446-3350

Porkside Farm
10 French Pond Rd.
Henniker, NH 03242
(603) 748-3767