Like most avid gardeners, I am proud of my bountiful harvest at the end of summer and try my best to not let fresh produce go to waste. When my family is not able to consume all of the root vegetables we’ve grown, we try to store them to extend their life span and to give us the opportunity to enjoy our homegrown crops over the winter season. From root cellaring and trenching to refrigerating and freezing, there are several ways to effectively store and preserve root vegetables.
A root cellar is a type of structure that is built underground. It is often used to store fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other foods. Root cellars are designed to be dark, cool, and typically humid and often feature ventilation systems to ensure proper air movement. Root vegetables like carrots, beets, and potatoes should be packed into containers surrounded by moist sand, sawdust, or straw. The ideal temperature for a root cellar is just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and the optimal humidity is 95 percent.
If you don’t have a root cellar or basement, consider storing your root vegetables in a trench storage area around your home. This inexpensive and economical solution allows the root vegetables to remain underground. Root crops such as turnips, carrots, winter radishes, beets, and parsnips do well in trenches, as they are able to handle near-freezing temperatures. This method involves digging a trench, placing about three inches of straw on the ground, then placing your root vegetables on top. Cover the veggies with another 12 inches of straw, then about three inches of soil.
If you wish to have easy access to your root vegetables, some can be stored in the refrigerator. To ensure long-lasting freshness, wrap your root crops in paper towels, then place them inside a plastic bag. Store your root vegetables in the crisper bin of the refrigerator and most will keep for about two to four weeks. Do not tie the plastic bags shut, as some air flow is recommended to keep the veggies fresh. Most types of root crops can be stored in the fridge, including rutabagas, radishes, beets, and carrots.
One of the quickest and simplest ways to store your root vegetables long-term is by freezing them. Begin by washing and peeling your root vegetables, and then dice them into 1-inch chunks. Next, bring a pot of water to a boil, as it’s essential to blanch your root crops before freezing them. Blanching involves scalding the vegetables in boiling water for a short amount of time, which varies from veggie to veggie. After blanching, transfer the vegetables to a bowl of ice water to cool them quickly and stop the cooking process. After a few minutes, dry the veggies on a towel, and then transfer them to a freezer bag or vacuum-sealing bag. Root vegetables have an average shelf life of nine months in a regular freezer bag and up to 14 months in a vacuum-packed bag.