How To Store Vegetables
NATURAL STORAGE OF ROOT CROPS
Knowing how to store vegetables is a vital piece of the self sufficiency puzzle. It is not necessary for all crops to reach maturity before they can be used. Very young carrots are delicious, and it is well known that the thinnings from autumn-sown onions may be used in spring salads. Many of the root crops, such as beet, turnips and parsnips, are more tender before they are fully grown, and kohlrabi should never be left until fully grown. Peas and beans are often sweeter in flavour when gathered just before they reach their full size; they are liable to become stringy and lose their delicate flavour if left till later. In addition to this, regular picking is important, so that the strength of the plant is concentrated on developing pods and plants will not cease to be productive before their time. For this reason, when seed has to be saved, it is not until the last pods are forming that they are left un-gathered.
Artichoke (Jerusalem). Through the winter tubers can be left in the ground and dug as required.
Artichoke (Globe). Heads are best cut early in the morning.
Beet. The Main crop should be lifted when the leaves are showing a lack of freshness, and a flabbiness of the outer leaves. After lifting; .remove the leaves by a sharp twist (not by cutting).
Beet can be stored in heaps in a shed. Cover with about 4 in. of straw, and then in the following week with a z-in. Layer of moist, sifted soil. Alternatively they can be dried and packed away in dry sand in a frost-proof place. Beet stored thus should remain, in good condition until the following April. Long or winter beet of the Cheltenham green-top type is best for storage.
Carrot. As already noted, very young carrots are delicious, but the main crop should not be lifted until late autumn. A natural curling of the leaves, and a dulling of colour is an indication that it is time to lift. Cut off the leaves close to the carrot root, but take care not to damage the root, or shrivelling may result. Roots should be stored in a frost-proof place, in boxes or On the , floor of a shed, and covered with dry sand or fine coal ash. Layers can be built up in this way. The carrots should be placed crown outwards. Covering with sacking or straw is advisable as a precaution against severe frosts. Large crops will require clamping like potatoes.
Celeriac. In late autumn roots should be lifted and stored like potatoes.
Onion. When bulbs are properly matured (indicated by drying off of leaves), they should be dug up and spread either in the open air in a sunny place or in an airy shed until the tops are dead, and then tied up in rope form and hung up in a cool, dry place.
Three pieces of strong string are required, which are tied together in a knot at one end and hung from a hook at a convenient height for working. The onions are placed in position one by one and the strings wound round the necks in a similar way to plaiting.
Parsnip. Roots can be left in the ground until they are required, but they can also be lifted and stored in sand in the dark early in March after first trimming off tops. If the frosts are severe, protect with straw, bracken or ashes. ‘
Potato. Early potatoes should be dug for immediate use, but as a general rule second earlies and main crop can be left in the ground until the tops are dead. They should be lifted with a fork placed well under the tubers to avoid damage. Clinging earth must be cleaned off and the potatoes left to dry in the sun for a few hours, after which they can be stored either in a cellar or in a frost-proof place. If it is more convenient to store outside they should be clamped.
Clamping. Tubers should be piled up into a ridge-shaped heap over which 6 in. of straw is placed, and over this again some 6 in. of soil, taken from the surrounding ground so as to form a trench at the base of the heap. This drains the water from beneath the clamp and keeps it dry. A drainpipe ventilator can be fitted up, or a few pieces of straw left to protrude through the outer layer of earth like a chimney—thus serving as a means of ventilation. Potatoes may be removed from the clamp as required, but be careful to close up each time. Other root crops such as turnips, parsnips, celeriac and swedes can also be clamped.
Salsify and scorzonera. These are best left in the ground during the winter, and lifted as required. The roots of salsify should be available from the third week of October onwards.
Shallots. About the end of July these will be ready for pulling up and drying. Clean off root tops prior to storing. They will keep well in bags or boxes or baskets, provided they are kept in a cool, dry place and there is sufficient ventilation.
Turnips can be left in the ground and covered with a thin layer of litter. In the spring will appear a crop of young green shoots, well known as turnip tops. Large crops can be clamped like potatoes.
Peas and beans. Time of gathering and effect on flavour has already been noted. Picking early must be emphasized. Seedy and stringy pods of runner beans are noticeable if the pods are left on the plants longer than four or five days after being ready for picking. Broad beans should be picked when fairly young and tender, and peas if left too long will become “corny.”
Asparagus. The frequency of cutting will depend on weather conditions. The “spears “ art effected by heat or cold, and will grow more quickly in hot weather. A long growing period or open buds will lower the value of the crop. If intended for market, cut buds should be piled up in small heaps on the asparagus beds, all ends one way, and packed away as soon as possible, to avoid drying out. Bundles should be tied with raffia or tape, washed well, and the ends of the stalks trimmed off. After draining, wrap the lower parts, and place in a crate lined with greaseproof paper or in wicker containers.
Celery. As a general rule about four weeks should be allowed from time of final earthing up to time when harvest begins. Heads should be well bleached and have a well-formed heart. Outer leaves and roots should be trimmed off and the celery should be washed. If it is to he sent away it is wise to wrap in cellophane or greaseproof paper.
Leeks can be left in the ground through the winter and dug as needed, or can be stored in sand in a dry shed. They should be harvested before the flower stems appear, and can be dug by hand, skinned and trimmed and made into bundles.
Marrows are best gathered before they are quite full size and before the skins become hard and yellowish, but marrows wanted for storage are liable to wither if gathered too soon. Outdoor marrows should be wrung off the plants.
Mushrooms. These must not be cut or pulled, but should be twisted gently from the beds. They can be put into shallow trays and should be placed stem down. During,the period April to September, mushroom beds will need looking over at least once a day, and at other times every other day. They are usually packed in chip baskets, the smaller size taking about 4 lb. Of buttons. Care should be taken to place them so that they rest on the rims of the caps of the mushrooms a layer below. Cardboard lids allow better ventilation than paper covers, and the lids should be secured with string or rubber bands.
Rhubarb. Great care should be taken to ensure freedom from damage to rhubarb when pulling. Each stick of rhubarb should be pulled by pushing the forefinger down the sheath as far as possible, so as to make sure that this is drawn clean away from the plant without breaking the sticks. If the roots are not to be kept after forcing, pulling may be continued over as long a period as possible, but for natural rhubarb it will probably be advisable to stop pulling for a time in June.
Sea-kale. Natural grown sea-kale ‘should be cut with a knife or a spade can be used to sever the heads from the plants. There should be no purple coloration evident except a tinge at the terminal points of the stalks. If the sea-kale is to be packed up, it is best to protect with cabbage leaves and tie down with string.
HARVESTING OF GREEN CROPS
Brussels sprouts. If the sprouts are allowed to remain on the plants very long they are inclined to become slimy and yellowed.
Spinach. Only the leaves of winter spinach should be picked. They should be pulled outwards and then to the side. If they are pulled upwards they are liable to damage. Summer spinach can be used whole when young.
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