By Bethany Hayes
One of the primary purposes of vegetable gardening is to stock up on food that you don’t need to buy from the store. However, you don’t want to spend all day throughout the summer canning, fermenting, and dehydrating. That’s why you need to grow some vegetables for long-term storage.
Years and years ago, our ancestors didn’t have access to these modern-day preservation methods, but they understood that some vegetables, stored in the right condition, lasted for months to come. These vegetables tended to be the ones harvested last, before the first freeze, and kept away in the house’s root cellar or basement, anticipating the winter months.
Nowadays, we’ve lost touch with these veggies. Sure, we eat them regularly, but we don’t consider growing them for long-term storage outside of the refrigerator, freezer, or our favorite preservation method. These veggies (and some fruits) can be stored away for months, as long as kept in the right conditions.
Ready to learn more? Here’s our favorite vegetable to grow for long-term storage.
13 Vegetables to Grow for Long-Term Storage
Chances are your first thought was that potatoes would be on the list. A bag of potatoes from the store lasts a while in your pantry, and your pantry doesn’t have the correct storage conditions. Also, you probably didn’t buy a variety meant for this storage.
If you want to store potatoes throughout the winter, you first need to select the right variety; “Kennebec” is one of the best. Homegrown potatoes can last throughout the winter and even into the spring.
Sure, you can buy potatoes from the store; they’re one of the cheapest veggies to buy. However, they have some of the highest levels of pesticides, so if you’re worried about the effects that these chemicals have on your family’s health, growing your own is ideal.
Potatoes need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark location. Make sure you only keep unblemished ones. When properly stored, potatoes last between 4-6 months.
If potatoes are good keepers, then sweet potatoes would be as well! If you think store-bought sweet potatoes are good, homegrown ones taste even better. They’ll keep throughout the winter without much fuss or attention. As long as you harvest gently and store properly, you don’t need to stress about their storage capabilities.
How you store sweet potatoes is the same as how you store potatoes. They need a cool, dry, dark location. Many people love to store them at the bottom of their pantry, keeping up to 4-6 months, depending on the temperature and humidity.
We don’t focus on winter squash as often as our ancestors did. Sure, we have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and as specific diets gained popularity, our squashes slowly gained traction, but they aren’t all the same.
How well they store depends on the type of winter squash that you’re growing. For example, spaghetti squash doesn’t hold as well as other types, and neither does acorn squash. It’s unfortunate because these two are the most popular.
When it comes to the long-term winter squash storage, the general rule is that the thicker the skin, the longer it will store. Some squashes taste better after being in storage.
The only downside to growing winter squash for long-term storage is that they take up a lot of space in your garden. You can try to grow the vines up fences or arches to help maximize your space.
Make sure you cure your winter squash and pumpkins in a dry area. It’s best if they’re kept at temperatures between 50-55℉. There are many ways to store winter squash, but most homesteaders keep them on basement shelving. Some varieties, such as Blue Hubbard and Butternut, can last for up to 6 months.
If you’re looking for a fruit that is good for long-term storage, apples are ideal. While it does depend heavily on the variety you grow, heirloom apples tend to last longer than the newer types. Tart apples also store for longer.
Some of the best apples to grow for storage purposes include:
- Newtown Pippin
- Northern Spy
- Pink Lady
- Rome Beauty
When you harvest your apples, make sure you only store mature, unblemished apples. Each should be wrapped in a newspaper individually and kept in a cardboard box or a wooden apple crate.
If you store them properly, apples will last between 2-7 months, depending on the variety selected.
For centuries, homesteaders have grown large, storage-type cabbage heads for the winter month. Not all cabbages are meant for storage, so be sure to do your research and find the type that will work best for your family. Some are named based on their winter storage ability.
When it comes to their storage abilities, you want firm, solid cabbage heads. Red cabbages store better than green varieties, and you want to find late types that take around 100+ days to reach maturity. Early maturing varieties won’t keep as well.
A few cabbage varieties to consider include:
- Red Acre
- Late Flat Dutch
- Storage No. 4
After your area’s first frost date, pull the plant out of the ground and trim off excess leaves around the head. Make sure you look for any critters that might hang out in the cabbage leaves. It’s best to store them in an outdoor storage pit or some sort of container that is separate because the odor from storing cabbage will fill your storage area. The scent can change the flavor of celery, apples, and pears if stored in the same place.
Another option is to wrap each cabbage individually and keep them on shelves. Don’t let them touch; there should be a few inches between each cabbage head. When stored correctly, cabbage heads can last between 3-4 months or even longer!
Most people also know that onions are good keepers. You probably have the same bag in your pantry for the last three months. Homegrown onions are delicious with a flavor unparalleled by store-bought ones.
Some gardeners consider onions useless to grow because they take up garden space without being the star of a meal, but you can grow onions in small areas, making it worth the effort.
If you want to store homegrown onions, make sure you let them cure for several weeks or until the tops are entirely dry. Once you cured them, trim the top to one-inch and store loosely in baskets or mesh bag. Then, store them in a cool, dark, dry location. Most onions last up to 6-8 months in storage.
There are two types of garlic you can grow; you need to pick a variety that works well in your area.
- Softneck Garlic
This variety is known for storing well, but they need to be grown in mild climates.
- Hardneck Garlic
If you have hard, cold winters, you need to grow hardneck garlic bulbs.
Gardeners plant garlic in the fall, and they’re harvested in the following summer. Then, you cure them before storage. Curing is an essential step because it allows all of the layers to dry out, forming a protective cover over the garlic bulb.
Once cured, store the garlic bulb loosely in baskets or mesh bags. They should be kept in a cool, dark, dry location. Go through the garlic bulbs occasionally and remove any that feel soft. They typically last between 6-8 months in storage.
Unfortunately, rutabagas aren’t as popular as they used to be years ago, but they’re a great long-season crop that takes up to 90 days to mature. However, they’ll store for months in a root cellar and add many nutrients to your diet throughout the winter.
Rutabagas can handle light frosts, but they’ll need to be harvested before a hard freeze. Be sure to harvest gently and trim the top and taproot down to one-inch. Then, brush off any loose soil, but make sure you don’t wash them!
Rutabagas can be stored in buckets or totes full of damp sand or sawdust. In an ideal situation, the temperature should be between 32-35℉ and 90% humidity. You’ll need to check the sand frequently and re-moisten it.
If you keep the rutabagas in the proper storage, rutabagas can last up to 2-4 months.
Not all carrot varieties are ideal for long-term storage. Some types that do well are Danvers, Chantenay, and Imperator.
If you’re looking to grow carrots for winter storage, you’ll want to start the seeds later in the season and allow the carrots to mature by frost. You can leave the carrots in the ground throughout light frosts, but be sure to dig them up before the ground entirely freezes, making harvesting hard or nearly impossible.
Once harvested, trim down the foliage and brush off extra soil, then sort by their size. Larger carrots last longer in storage. Once harvested, layer the carrots in either sand or sawdust inside of a box or a tote. Put the largest carrots on the bottom, which makes sure you can use the smaller ones first.
It’s best to store carrots in temperatures between 32-35℉. If you do, carrots can last between 4-6 months in storage.
Another fruit that can be kept for long-term storage is pears. They are more sensitive to temperature; you have to store them between 29-31℉, but if you want fresh fruit in the middle of the winter without buying them from the store, pears are a solid option.
You should store only unblemished, unbruised fruits. Each pear needs to be wrapped in newspaper and stored in either a cardboard or wood box lined with plastic. Be cautious with the temperature; if it gets too warm, they’ll turn brown on the inside.
When properly stored, most pear varieties last up to 3 months.
Like rutabagas, parsnips aren’t nearly as popular as they once were, but homesteaders loved them for their storage abilities. Parsnips are sowed in early spring; you have to keep the seeds moist until they germinate, taking up to 3 weeks.
Similar to carrots, parsnips should be left in the ground until frost starts to sweeten the flavor. You do need to dig them up before the ground begins to freeze. When you harvest, trim down the foliage, remove the extra soil, and layer them in the tote or box based on the size. They need to be stored in sand or sawdust.
Parsnips can be stored up to 5 months if you have them in temperatures between 32-35℉.
Too many people leave dried beans out of their list for vegetables that grow for long-term storage, but I can’t think of a veggie that lasts longer.
Pick a bean variety that is ideal for drying, and plant them in the early spring after the danger of frost passes. Some bean varieties can take up to 100 days to mature. Let them dry on the vine and harvest before the frost arrives in your area.
Once you remove the dried beans from the vine, let them dry on a single layer mesh screen before shelling. You want them to be totally dry. Store the dried bean in jars in a cool, dark area. Dried beans can last up to a year in storage.
Either you love them or hate them – that’s how it seems to work with beets. They’re a root crop with a distinct taste, but they can store for months. Typically, you plant them in the late spring to harvest before the first frost in your region.
Beets should be harvested in dry weather; pick a time frame when it hasn’t rained for several days. The roots should be about 2 inches in diameter when harvested.
Dig up the roots, and cut off the green foliage, leaving only 1-2 inches from the top of the root. The root tip needs to remain intact. Brush off the loose soil, and layer them in damp sand, sawdust, or peat moss; try layering based on size.
A plastic container works well with a lid because it helps to keep the sand moist, or a wooden box will work as well. Most importantly, try to ensure the beets don’t touch while in storage; it increases the spoilage rate.
In proper storage, beets last for 3-5 months!
When you grow these different vegetables, you can keep them in long-term storage and enjoy them for months to come. You don’t need to put any effort into food preservation methods like canning or dehydrating. All you have to do is harvest them and put them in the correct storage. Everyone should grow a few of these vegetables for long-term storage.