After the work you put into raising those delicious vegetables, it is good to know how to store them so you can enjoy them as long as possible.
Produce can be canned, frozen or dehydrated, but today we'll address storing the veggies fresh.
When selecting vegetables for storage, discard any that are damaged or show signs of disease or rot.
When I was a kid in Minnesota, we stored carrots for the winter in big crocks full of damp sand. That worked pretty well, but here in the Rogue Valley, our milder winters allow us to leave most root vegetables in the ground for the winter, pulling them as we need them.
If we have a very cold spell predicted, soil or straw pulled up over the carrots, beets, parsnips or turnips will generally keep them from freezing. If, for some reason, you want them out of the ground, remove the green tops and store them in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
Cabbage needs humidity, and a temperature of about 32 degrees is ideal. Perforated plastic bags are recommended.
Other members of the cabbage family, such as Brussels sprouts, kale and collards, as well as spinach, not only withstand frost, but improve in flavor. If you protect them with a plastic and bent PVC pipe "hoop house," they will last most of the winter. Otherwise, put the greens in plastic bags for storage; wash just before using.
If frost catches you with melons still on the vines, they will keep at room temperature for several days; move to the refrigerator as needed.
Harvest onions when the tops fall over. Pull them, remove the tops, and cure them where they have good air circulation until the necks turn brown. When they rustle as you handle them, it's time to store them in mesh bags in a cool, dry area.
Do not harvest winter squash or pumpkins until the vines are frost-killed and the rind is hard to the thumbnail. Leave the stems on and store in a cool, dry place. Laugh if you will, but I store squash in shallow boxes under the bed!
Fresh, ripe tomatoes should not be refrigerated (it spoils the taste and texture). Store them at room temperature away from sunlight. Tomatoes that are still green when frost damages the plant can be stored in a single layer in a cool place, such as the garage, and will ripen gradually. No need to wrap them — just check periodically for the ripe ones. You could have fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving.
Store potatoes in a cool, dry place away from light, as light turns them green. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator, as the starch changes to sugar and gives the potatoes an unpleasant taste.
Ripen apples and pears at room temperature, then refrigerate them in plastic bags to help retain good texture. Pears, especially, need specific ripening conditions for different varieties, Call the OSU Master Gardener plant clinic at 541-776-7371 if you have questions about the variety you have.
Coming up: Register soon for the 14th annual Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens gardening symposium. This is an all-day session on Saturday, Nov. 3, at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford. There are approximately 40 classes on a wide variety of topics, and you can choose four to attend. Call 541-776-7371 for details or to receive a registration packet.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.