Farmer’s markets are always teeming with autumn’s abundant harvest during this time of the year. If you’re a restaurant owner, it’s best to take advantage of all the extra harvest and stock up on your crop reserves before the chilly, harsh winter sets in. Here are 8 useful crops to explore winter food storage.
Storing food for winter is an age-old practice. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors learned that they could preserve crops and meats in a variety of ways for the colder months when food was scarce. Modern-day restaurant operators can also benefit from incorporating this practice into their activities. It’s nice not running out of potatoes when your customers want a bowl of warm mashed potatoes as a side dish for a Christmas meal.
All you really need is a cool, dry place to store your crops. A cellar or even an unheated basement will give you ample space for storing your crops. You don’t need new commercial refrigerators or walk-in coolers for storing, so don’t worry about investing in new Beverage Aire coolers. Most autumn crops, if stored in the right conditions, can last from a few months to half a year.
However, just because these crops can last a while doesn’t mean you should drag out their lifespan. Prepare everything as soon as possible to ensure you get the most out of the food product.
Below are some of the most common food crops best stored for winter and their ideal storage conditions.
1. Apples and Pears
Some varieties, particularly those that have thick skin and firm flesh, are better suited for winter storage. Fuji and Gold Rush apples are examples. These fruits tend to release ethylene, a gas that causes other fruits to ripen up faster, so you need to separate them from other crops. Apples and pears should be wrapped individually with newspaper and stored in crates where they can be properly ventilated.
Leave potatoes to dry out in the sun to cure for a few days. Remove soil and mud to prevent mould from growing. Potatoes are best stored in a dark, dry place with plenty of ventilation to prevent the growth of poisonous green patches.
Do not cut off cabbage roots. Keep them and wrap each cabbage in the newspaper before storing in well-ventilated crates. Alternatively, let the roots sit in a container filled with moist sand or sawdust. The smell of cabbage can affect other crops so make sure to keep them away from other items.
Garlic must be cured to allow it to form a protective layer around the bulb. Most garlic available in farmers markets is already cured. This crop is best stored in mesh bags that are placed in a cool, dry place. Regularly check for bulbs that have sprouted so you can throw them away to keep them from affecting other bulbs.
Onion can be stored in the same way as garlic. However, you need to cut the tops off down to 1 inch. Store onions in a mesh bag and put in a cool, dark area with plenty of ventilation.
Choose fully ripe pumpkins with a stem of at least 1 inch in length. Fresh pumpkins must be cured for several days. Do not handle the pumpkin by the stem because this reduces storage quality. Keep in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place.
Different squash varieties store differently. Some, such as butternut and spaghetti squash, can last up to 6 months if preserved properly. Choose squashes with a 1-inch stem. Once cured, they must be stored in a cool, dry place with lots of ventilation.
Trim the tops of carrots and brush off soil from the skin but do not wash. Place carrots in layers on damp sand or sawdust. Larger carrots have a long lifespan so place them on the lowest layers while the smaller ones go to the top. Cover the top carrots with 2 inches of sand (or sawdust) and regularly check to make sure the sand remains moist. The same procedure can also be used for beets and parsnips.