What's the Best Way to Store Fresh Produce
LOGAN, UT – Harvest time is here, and many people like to store their produce for later use. Canning, pickling, drying or freezing are common preservation methods for various fruits and vegetables. Another option is to store them fresh. Consider this information.
• Tomatoes are very sensitive to freezing. They should be covered with tarps or blankets during a light frost. When weather permanently turns cold, fruits should be picked, then allowed to ripen indoors. Fruits should be light green or have some hint of red. Tomatoes picked too green may rot. Temperatures near 70 F are ideal for faster ripening, but temperatures near 55 F will delay ripening for up to a month. Tomatoes stored below this temperature will develop a bland or off flavor. Additionally, stored tomatoes may shrivel in low humidity before ripening. To prevent this, place a layer of fruit in a box and cover it with wax paper. Another layer can be placed on top of the first and covered with more wax paper. Place the lid on the box when finished. Another option is to wrap each tomato individually. Remove tomatoes as they ripen. A banana placed in the box and allowed to ripen in proximity to the tomatoes may hasten ripening.
• Winter squash can be stored. Squash is ripe when the skin develops a waxy coating and cannot be damaged easily by scratching the skin with a fingernail. However, unless you are going to immediately consume the squash, it should be left attached until the vines have been mostly killed by frost. Leave some stem on the squash when it is picked. Store winter squash at temperatures ranging from 50 to 60 F at relatively low humidity.
• Onions should be harvested when the tops start to fall over. They should be lifted from the ground and stored in a well-ventilated area. When the necks turn brown and they “rustle when disturbed,” they are ready to be stored. Shelf life is maximized when the bulbs are stored at low humidity and near freezing. Many factors influence shelf life including variety and whether the bulbs were grown from seeds or sets. Bulbs should be checked periodically.
• Potatoes are commonly stored for later use. They should be harvested after the vines start to die. Cure potatoes at 50 to 60 F at relatively high humidity for two weeks. After this, store tubers near 50 F. Lower temperatures may cause an off flavor to develop. Warmer temperatures are acceptable, but will decrease storage life.
• Other crops such as apples, pears, cabbage, celery, carrots and parsnips can be stored for an extended period of time. See the fact sheet at http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/07601.pdf for storing information. For a more complete look at home food storage, see the USU bulletin at http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/FN_502.pdf.
By: Taun Beddes - Sept. 10, 2012