Long term produce storage. How well does it work?



5 or 6 months ago I  stuck my hands in a patch of dirt and pulled out all of my vegetables.  Today I’m doing the same thing.

Last September I wrote a post on How to store Carrots and Beets so they’d last throughout the winter. The basic idea is you store them in soil, the same way they’re used to being stored their whole lives.  In 2013, I wrote about  How to Store Potatoes.

So today I thought I’d update you on how well these methods work.  Obviously it’s the sort of thing that would immediately interest a vegetable gardener, but the same methods can be used for any vegetables you buy.  Basically unless you only eat mammoth sized turkey legs (a la Fred Flintstone) these methods should be of  interest and use to you.

I’m going to start off talking about how well the beets and carrots have done.

I know I’m not the only one who has thrown a bunch of beets or carrots in the crisper only to pull out a limp mass of wimpy, spongey things that look as though they’ve been beaten down by life only a week or so later.

So this year I stored all of my beets and carrots in slightly damp peat moss in a plastic bin with the lid mostly closed in a cool room. (like I described in my original post)


The room they are stored in is pretty much like a garage.  It isn’t insulated and it isn’t heated.  It’s a mud room.  It gets to be around 32f / 0c throughout the winter with the temperature in the mudroom rising when it’s warmer outside and cooler when it’s frigid.  Since the vegetables are tucked into soil it insulates them a bit keeping them closer to around 40 degrees.  When it’s going to be bitterly cold (-15c)  I drag the potatoes into the kitchen for the night so they don’t freeze.



Here’s what happened.  Because I didn’t want the beets to bleed, I didn’t cut the top off of the beet before storing it, only the greens. What you see here are all NEW greens (or reds in the case of the Bulls Blood beets).   6 months after pulling them, the beets are exactly the same as the day I picked them.  They’re hard, not at all withered and taste great because they’re in fact, still alive and growing.  Not only that I have a fresh supply of greens to saute or add to salads all the time.

It’s a beet miracle.

This by the way is how you would propagate beets to grow seeds. Beets are biennials which means they grow seeds their second year.  So if I wanted to, in the spring I could take some of my sprouted beets outside, stick them in the ground and they’d grow seed pots from their greens.  I’d then have all the seeds I needed for next year’s plantings.




All the same things are true for my carrots.  I tried to cut the tops off of all the carrots, including the crown, to prevent them from sprouting, but a lot of them still sprouted. Which is fine.  Because I can now harvest seeds from some of my rarer and favourite carrots like Juane de Daubs and Purple Dragon.




These carrots are stiff and hard. They could do porn these carrots.  They’re just like the day I pulled them.

Let’s talk about the leeks.  Or rather let me tell you about the leeks.

I’d read over and over again that leeks were notoriously difficult to store.  A few suggestions were to simply cut off their roots and store them in a cool room, plant them in a bucket, leaving the roots attached and just the bottom of the leek covered, or freezing them.  The first two methods just plain didn’t work for me and freezing wasn’t an option. I wanted fresh leeks in the middle of February. Not soggy frozen ones.


So I decided to apply the same rules to the leeks as I did to the beets and carrots.  I left the roots on, trimmed the tops a bit and then layered them in damp peat moss in an airtight plastic container.

They’ve been stored like that for the past 5 months and they’re perfect. I have to strip the first couple of leaf layers off, because they’re kind of sad and wrinkly looking, but underneath they’re firm, good lookin’ leeks.  Kind of like if you peeled the first 50 layers of skin off of my face.  Underneath would be the fresh face of a baby.  Or blood and bone structure because I have no idea how many layers of skin we have on our faces.



And again, because the roots are still attached and they’re in soil the leeks are still alive.  I  had no idea they’d keep growing but they did.  They grew so much they pushed the top off of their container.  So this was a storage success.

This is the garlic I have left.  Stored in a cold room in a closed cupboard and most of it is still firm.  The odd head is starting to dry out a bit, but is still useable.




Squash.  My dear, beloved squash.  I use it for so many things.  Soup, ravioli, side dish …  It’s one of my favourites and these are two of my favourite varieties.  Kabocha squash on the left and Delicata on the right.  You can see the Delicata squash is just starting to show signs of “ick”.   It’s still useable but I’d better use it soon.  The Kabocha squash will be good until next fall.  Seriously.  This thick skinned squash is a very dry, sweet variety that stores forever.

You can see my problem though.

There are only 3 squash left.  Three.  That’s not enough.  I need to plant more squash next year.  The problem is they take up a lot of room, but I’m gonna have to suck it up.  As you’ll see in a moment, I could probably scale back the potato patch to increase the squash patch.




This is about half of the potatoes I have left.  Now that I think about it, this is probably far less than half.  I have a full crate of potatoes and three slightly smaller baskets.  I grow and hoard potatoes like the threat of scurvy is just around the corner.

The potatoes are stored in the same cold room as all of the other vegetables, but not in soil.  They just need a container with some air flow like a slatted crate or wicker baskets.




Ditto for sweet potato storage.  This is what’s left of the sweet potato haul. I just discovered roasted sweet potatoes this year.   Normally I fry or mash.  Roasting is the way to go if you ask me (this year).  Next year my answer  might be wildly different so I reserve the right to contradict myself at any time in the future.





RUTABAGA!   Otherwise known as Swedish turnip, otherwise  known as turnip, even though it isn’t a turnip.  I didn’t grow a ton of these and the ones I did grow didn’t get huge because I planted them a little bit too late but they’ve stored great using my good old damp peat moss method.  No need for waxing them, like you see in the stores.  Just sick ’em in the dirt.




Onions get stored in this wicker basket because they like to have air around them.   Onions like it cold, squash like it a bit warmer, but ….


For storing anything just try to get as close to  ideal for all of the vegetables as you can. (between 40 f – 50 f)  or (between 0 c – 9 c)




The point of all this isn’t to show you how to store your vegetables.  Grow up.  It’s to show off my produce.  We all know that.

But if you learned something that’s great.  If you’re jealous … even better.


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  1. Jodi T. says:

    Ok, I think I read through all of the comments to see if my question has already been asked – if it was – SORRY.

    I just pulled two potatoes out of a cabinet and threw them out because they had alien eyes (about an inch long). Did they do that because it’s too warm inside or because they aren’t getting enough air circulation?

  2. Ellen says:

    I followed your advice on storing potatoes & carrots from my local farmer’s market, and I am VERY pleased with how they have been holding up. Thank you.
    And if I had to drag potatoes into my kitchen every time it got below -15 they’d live there! but mine are just in a coolish basement & are doing fine.

  3. Dee says:

    You have accomplished both your goals. So good to know how to stretch the season like this and yes, I’m so very jealous! Perfectly timed though for selecting what we can grow for the new year. Thanks.

  4. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I am definitely jealous..fresh veggies in the middle of Winter..you amaze me lady..now I am hungry for a nice sausage and root veggie soup..

  5. monica says:

    I LOLed at carrot porn.

  6. Erin says:

    Your veggies are inspiring! Just what this jaded gardener needs to see today.
    Our chickens love any “ick” squash or pumpkins. I split them in half (the pumpkins, not the chickens) and the birds eat the insides leaving a “bowl” of pumpkin skin. If it is cold, the frozen bowl can contain their treats for the next few days. Cheap fun.
    A while ago, I read that carrots have a cross-pollination issue with Queen Ann’e s lace (wild carrot.) Since we live in a field that is covered with the stuff, I have never tried saving carrot seeds . It would be really interesting to know how it works for you. There is a real satisfaction growing out seed you’ve saved yourself.
    Thanks for the great post!

  7. Karol says:

    “Not jealous”, there I said it. I read all of your posts because you are a funny, funny woman. I actually learn from ALL of them, but some are just not going to apply to my life. I don’t know how to grow vegetables, I don’t want to. The only thing I’ve ever successfully grown is a set of balls. I kill succulents and any other living plant faster than you can say Boy Howdy. But thank you for sharing your pictures, they are beautiful, and you are still funny even when you are writing about carrots and potatoes.

  8. Tara says:

    So jealous. It’s amazing how delicious dirt covered vegetables can look! This post has me craving some delicious roasted root veggies.

  9. Karin says:

    What is your grocery bill?! Seriously! I’ve got to try this for my store bought produce. We big box it and the last handful are always slimy mush by the time I get to them. Which kind of defeats the purpose of buying in bulk.

  10. Ev Wilcox says:

    Wonderful post! Your crisp photos do justice to your crisp vegs. I was wondering why your potatoes don’t make eyes. I have a problem with mine, so I am guessing they need to be colder. Any suggestions from anyone? Also, good timing due to the awful weather today. Northeast Ohio is not going to get the blast that the east coast is, but there is plenty of snow here now and pretty cold! So we can use “gardeny” thoughts! Thanks Karen!

  11. Mary Werner says:

    I didn’t know that about the biennial beets and their seeds – love to learn new things like that. I always thought that beet and rutabaga greens were the best of all the greens so I grew mine for the tops. Diabetics have long known about roasted sweet potatoes as they are one of the fastest vegetable to metabolize and filling too! I used mine for lunch at work by cooking them in the microwave – so easy. I roasted them for pies and caseroles. Your onions were a sight to behold! I never got garlic to grow and am seriously jealous of yours. Job well done – jealous, envious, etc. If I remember correctly from my biology class, we have 5 layers of skin. Great post today.

  12. maarilyn says:

    How I love this blog Karen!

  13. Susan says:

    I live in Southern California-no way is there anywhere that cool to overwinter vegetables. I would end up with piles of goop within two weeks-yes, I’m jealous! On the other hand, I picked strawberries out of my garden yesterday.

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Yes. That’s the difference. You can get fresh produce probably all the time. Here in the hinterland, you can’t. I’m looking forward to strawberries this summer, but I’m looking forward to my first batch of raspberries even more. ~ (as of now strawberryless) karen!

  14. Cred says:

    Mission accomplished! I’m jealous. And I learned a little- I knew about the other veg but I was surprised by the leeks. I have a perfect spot to store. Veggies in my cold room but alas it is bare- I need to expand the garden next year. This exactly what I want to do, too. Nice work!

  15. Desiree says:

    Inspiring me to grow more food!

  16. Tigersmom says:

    I may worry, but it won’t be about you starving.

    Cool to see how you can perpetuate your harvest by allowing things to go to seed. (I may be guilty of improper use of a gardening term there, but I’m not even a novice gardener, so, how would I know?) Even cooler that you can have veggies from your garden year round, even in Canada.

    The only place I have that would be the right temperature for storage would be my garage. My worry then is that vermin would decide that my garage had the best buffet in town and I would be overrun.

    I, too, discovered roasting sweets this past year. It happened after I discovered roasting broccoli (due to a post you did…thank you, again) and decided that everything would taste good or better with that wonderful, undiluted, earthy depth of flavor that roasting brings out. But then I sliced them really thin on a mandoline and roasted them with coconut oil and they were soooooooo good things started to get dangerous because then I started making homemade potato chips……

  17. Su says:

    I’m jealous… there I said it…

  18. AmyB says:

    One question, as I’ve never had the guts to try storing my veg thru the winter…do you have any issues with mice, etc? Being in your mudroom, I’d imagine there’s still a bit of traffic in and out to keep them at bay, but I’d have to store in my basement. And while we don’t have a huge problem, it’s an old house and I’ve found that old houses come with “friends.” Do you do anything to deter pests, or do they seem to leave the exposed veg (potatoes and such) alone?

    • Bols says:

      Hi AmyB,
      I use my garage to store potatoes in wintertime (I just buy the 10 kg bag or whatever it is at a grocery store) and it’s sitting on the garage floor. I have mouse traps in the basement because I, too, find evidence of uninvited guests from time to time but none in the garage. The potates have never been touched.
      Now I am sure the mice would be happier in the basement than in the garage (in the dark, I can thin strips of light leaking in around the garage door) so I am pretty sure it’s quite cold there (especially on days like today when my car thermometer was at -17 C as I drove to work this a.m.). But so far so good.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amy B . I’ve never had a problem with mice getting at my vegetables in the mudroom, but every few years my house seems to become overrun with mice. This was one of those years. They’re mice of superior tastes because they left all the produce alone and went straight for the kitchen cupboards filled with chocolate chips and icing sugar. I’ve since set out regular mouse straps. The kind that kill quickly with a snap of the neck. Poor little mouse. But I can’t have them running through my food. I’ve since found a big hole in my foundation where a pipe runs through and I’ve filled it. Haven’t got a mouse since then. ~ karen!

      • I’d agree. In my experience, mice tend to go for the tastier items than vegetables. Karen, if you need a no-fail mousetrap, we’ve had great success with an electronic trap:

      • Louise says:

        Oh Julia, I have one of those traps and I love it! My home backs up to a field, and the rats come in when it gets cold. I’ve blocked the places where they get in around our pipes, but every now and then I can hear one bumping and pushing and finally getting through! And they’re incredibly destructive – one ate my artificial Christmas tree and half of my ornaments in storage, which I found out just 3 days before Christmas! So while this certainly isn’t the cheapest trap, it’s worth the price in convenience and peace of mind! I just put a piece of dog kibble (from my neighbor) in the back to lure the rat in, and CLUNK! He’s instantly dead. It’s humane and it’s a sure kill – we have genius rats that get away from everything else!

  19. Grammy says:

    I was thinking, “What a brat,” until you ‘fessed up to just intentionally making us jealous. It worked — every single thing looks so, so good. But since you did give us tips in between your twirling around and taking bows, I’m grateful for the whole post. I’m definitely going to get some good containers to store some things in dirt next year. Thank you.

  20. Louise says:

    OK, Karen, I AM jealous! Your photo of the onions is BEAUTIFUL! They look like jewels. This picture could be sold to decorate kitchens, calendars, etc. Do you ever sell your photos? You have become an excellent photographer and I think you could do it!

    As for your sweet potatoes, in my area, we call the red ones “yams” and the lighter ones “sweet potatoes.” I used to work for a Korean company, and it’s their custom to roast sweet potatoes at 325F for about 90 minutes or until quite soft. My coworkers would warm them in the microwave and keep them in their pockets on winter mornings, which kept them and their hands warm during cold snaps in Southern California – 55F – brrrrr! ;-) Then they would eat them out of hand, skin and all, like apples! I now roast 4 or 5 sweet potatoes at a time, and they are a wonderful snack; super healthy, with lots of potassium, vitamin A and fiber, and absolutely delicious!

    • Heather says:

      Roasted sweet potato with feta cheese on top…YUM

    • Karen says:

      4 or 5 at a time, lol! I like them but the only thing I can eat 4 or 5 of at a time are hamburgers. So yams. Yams are actually quite rare. They’re from Africa and Asia and their skin is rough, like hairy bark. The inside is usually white with purple striations. Grocery stores often label the red sweet potatoes as yams for some reason but they’re definitely sweet potatoes. It causes almost as much confusion as my mother referring to rutabaga as a turnip all the time. ~ karen!

      • Just had to pop in and share my favourite way to roast sweet potatoes. I cut them into wedges and toss them with olive oil and Clubhouse Cajun seasoning before roasting. I’ll usually mix up a bit of chili-mayo for a dip (just like you’d use for SP fries). They’re awesome!

      • Louise says:

        Good grief, I don’t eat 4 or 5 at a time! I put them in the fridge and my son and I will snack on them (or have them for breakfast) over the next few days. Also, I pick the smaller, skinny ones so that they cook quickly. My Lord, I’d be 500 lbs. if I ate them all at once! Which raises the question, 4 or 5 hamburgers? Why aren’t you 500 lbs?!

        As for yams vs. sweet potatoes: the red ones have an orange flesh which cooks up quite soft. The paler ones have a yellow flesh that seems dryer and taste quite different. (I like them better.) So they must be different species or something. Anybody here know what the difference is?

      • Karen says:

        O.k good, lol. The orange ones are sometimes referred to as soft sweet potatoes. Appropriately enough. :) ~ karen

  21. jacqueline says:

    “The point of all this isn’t to show you how to store your vegetables. Grow up. It’s to show off my produce. We all know that.” I read through this whole post without laughing out loud, and then I let out a hearty chuckle when I got to this line. So direct. So hilarious.

  22. This calls for a classic Canadian poem by our renowned Lorna Crozier:


    Carrots are fucking the earth. a
    permanent erection, they push deeper
    into the dark damp and dark.
    all summer long
    they try so hard to please
    was it good for you,
    was it good?

    Perhaps because the earth wont answer
    they keep on trying
    while you stroll through the garden
    think carrot cake,
    carrots and onions in beef stew,
    carrot pudding with caramel sauce,
    they are fucking their brains out
    in the hottest part of the afternoon.

  23. Kathy Hartzell says:

    My question is similar to Amber’s: for those of us in Bay moderated climes like that of San Francisco, how warm can the cold storage be?

  24. Amber says:

    How cold is your cold room? I’ve got an unheated room that I keep my bonsai trees in, but it’s got frost inside the windows. Is that too cold? My basement is heated, so it’s the frost room or outside, where we will have a bit of a blizzard soon…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amber! Storage temperatures are talked about in the posts I linked to (I think), but if you can keep your vegetables as close to between 45 and 50 F you’ll be fine. No one can keep them in perfect storage conditions but that’s the range you want for most vegetables to keep them freshest longest. ~ karen!

  25. caryl hodgdon says:

    My beets and lovely multi-colored carrots are in cold storage as well-frozen under a layer of snow. Never got to pull them due to a med emergency and was feeling low until I saw this post. Virtual root veg nirvana. Thanks!

    • jen says:

      Caryl, my sister grew carrots and wasn’t able to pull them all up until the following spring. Amazingly, they were the sweetest, best carrots ever tasted! Can’t recall what that winter was like but under a blanket of snow…you might just get lucky, too!

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