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Digging Through the Winter Stores

February 13, 2011

The promise of spring shows in a bit of color here and there, but winter fare is still the norm.  Stored calories from summer time in our staple crops take us through this hungry time.


But one rotten potato can spoil the whole barrel, or is that an apple?  No matter, after months of storage, one has to be diligent in going over the stores and checking for spoilage.

Sweet Meat

The key is selecting long storing crops, and providing the right storage conditions to ensure your crop lasts through winter.  But, real food doesn’t keep forever.

A little spoilage is OK, but may be shocking to some if you’re new to storing your own food, since you don’t often see the spoilage in the produce aisle at the store.  This winter squash is fine, the bad parts can be cut away, leaving 95% of squash still edible.

Purple Viking

If you have a rotten potato your nose will let you know before you see the offending spud.  Unlike winter squash, there is no salvaging any part of a rotten potato.

Onions are the same, a visual is on the first order of business.  If you have onions or garlic breaking dormancy and starting to sprout, just plant them in a pot for your windowsill, and you will have fresh allium greens for cooking.


Or sometimes, you can smell the offenders and know you need to go through your onion bags.

Edyta, the Dandy Lion

She’s pretty spoiled, we don’t know what to do with her 😉

23 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2011 12:37 am

    I’m a midwife. I can handle all sorts of ‘yucky’ stuff. But rotten potatoes are the one thing that make me retch.

    That’s a beautiful picture of the Dandelion. It’s so hot and muggy here today, I’m longing for a touch of frost.

    • February 14, 2011 5:48 am

      Ms. Lottie, definitely, I smelled that offending potato before I even got close to the box it was in. P.U.

      And here we are longing for a touch of warm sun!

  2. February 14, 2011 3:48 am

    I know what to do with Edyta… She looks like a perfect snuggle-cat.

  3. February 14, 2011 4:04 am

    I have a cool storage “room” in the condo basement which I’ve often thought would be good to store cabbage/potatoes/etc. What do you consider the optimum temperature and humidity for this?

    • February 14, 2011 5:46 am

      Potatoes and cabbage both like cool (40’sF) and high humidity (90’sF) to store for very long. It may be a better place to store onions, garlic and winter squash. I keep a barometer in my cool room to track the temperature and humidity. But your room may work for quite a while. Sometimes you need to try storing something and then seeing what you want to put up with as far as quality. It may not be perfect but will be OK, especially with something that will be cooked.

  4. February 14, 2011 5:55 am

    Hello Matron Good advice I see the stuff in the produce aisle, it is probably many months old and looks great. What kind of chemical do you think is on it. The smell of a rotten potato is not very pleasant. My 90 year old friend told me an old farmers saying something about you should still have half your hay, and half of your larder full on Feb 2. We have always found it works for hay for our cows. I wish I knew the saying his memory is obviously better than mine at 90 maybe I will get it right.
    Signs of spring here, it is + 4 and the wind is howling. It will be -10c tomorrow night. Will be ice with all this melting snow.It was nice while it lasted. I am heading out to feed my cows in the puddles. B

    • Christina permalink
      February 14, 2011 11:45 am

      Industrial food storage is not only highly temperature and humidity regulated in huge warehouses, but often stored in altered atmosphere. In Washington State, the season’s apples are put into oxygen-depleted storage after harvest so that they can ship out through the winter, spring, summer. Nowadays, even individually packaged foods likes meats and those washed-and-sealed salad mixes are atmospherically altered to extend their shelf life.

  5. February 14, 2011 7:16 am

    Once again, your photos are spectular. I love the one of your cat, Edyta. She must like to pose for the camera. I wish I could send you a mig armful of sunshine, but sense I can’t I will just say “Have a great day.”

  6. February 14, 2011 7:51 am

    Rotten tomatoes are far more a stink to my nose than potatoes. We too check our winter stores, weekly and remove anything beginning to mold or softening. We just cooked up the last of our pumpkins, they were getting soft black spots and thinned out the onions and beets that were softening and beginning to mold.

    In the case of the pumpkins and beets we simply cut off the bad parts and used to feed suppliment( we do steam them until soft) for our poultry. The bad stuff is added to the compost pot, then to the compost pile. Nothing wasted, of course unless it’s too far gone, which happens from time to time.

  7. February 14, 2011 8:42 am

    Edyta has some gorgeous green eyes!

    • February 14, 2011 10:28 am

      She’s part Siamese, but is a spotted manx looking more like bobcat kitten than a house cat, her brother Maks has more of the regulation green cat eyes. He’s pretty but not a pretty as her.

  8. February 14, 2011 9:10 am

    Even if Edyta is slightly spoiled, I would keep an eye on her and wait to see what happens, rather than rush to judgment. She should probably ‘keep’ just fine for another week or three! 🙂

  9. Rosa permalink
    February 14, 2011 9:25 am

    My storage beets (stored in damp sand) look and smell great, but they are very crunchy and hard to cook – cooking time is about double at a simmer or in a pressure cooker, and baking just doesn’t work at all.

    Did I do something wrong? Or do you have any ideas for cooking storage beets? This is the first year I’ve managed to keep any this long – last year I didn’t give them enough water and they all went bad.

    • February 14, 2011 10:26 am

      It might just be the variety? I boil, or rather bring mine to a boil and simmer until done, about 40 minutes or so depending on the size of beets I chose for the batch. They always come out the same. And sometimes I roast them. But I have never noticed any difference in cooking time from summer to winter. Maybe someone will chime in that has the answer.

      • Rosa permalink
        February 15, 2011 7:25 pm

        It might be variety, they came from the farmer’s market so I’m not sure which kind they are.

        Thanks for responding – it’s good to know it’s not normal, at least.

  10. susan permalink
    February 14, 2011 11:57 am

    It’s amazing how one little spot of bad can run rampant! I stored three triamble squash (that I inspected carefully) and two have stored perfectly while the third was totally rotten. Speaking of spoiled rotten, Edyta would have me wrapped around her little paw with a face like that!

  11. February 14, 2011 6:34 pm

    I always look forward to when I have some time to read your blog. I am learning all I can about saving Heirloom seeds and having some success. We did have a short season this year but both my Sweet Meat and Hubbard looked ripe. I cured them outside first then stored them in the basement where the temperature is about 55 degrees. But, this year, my Sweet Meat squash didn’t have much flavor. They are in good shape with no soft spots or spoiled parts. I did save some seeds, but they are kind of flat, not as plump as I would have liked them. I sprouted some and about 30% did sprout. Any ideas that may help? Another question, does soil effect the flavor of vegetables?

    • February 14, 2011 7:38 pm

      Pam, yes soil quality does affect taste, squash are very heavy feeders. Your Hubbard and Sweet Meat may have crossed too, since they are both C. maxima. That may not make a difference to you, but may make a difference in taste.

  12. February 15, 2011 9:42 am

    I did the same thing the other day….I think I had more shrunken onions that you though.

  13. February 15, 2011 4:21 pm

    I don’t mind food storage that’s atmospherically altered – but I have HUGE objections to the now-common practice of irradiating veggies to “kill the germs” And everything else…. Well, if there’s nothing alive about them, nothing to rot them either. Sigh.

    I LIKE the new technology for packaging, even though I don’t trust plastic, I appreciate the fact that it breathes and stays fresh longer. Right now I’m saving all of the big Earthbound Farm plastic lettuce containers. I figure when I’m at the seasons’ edge next year, it’ll hold things a little longer.

    Of course, we’ll probably learn there’s something WORSE the BPA in them.

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