You cannot imagine how comforting it is to have fresh produce in hard times. But sometimes your garden just isn’t ready when you need it, or your availability to fresh produce isn’t ideal. The thing is this though: fresh produce isn’t meant to stay fresh for very long. You’re usuallyleft holding the bag if you want some good produce during a food shortage, societal breakdown or a major event. It’s not that difficult though, to get a good mix of veggies in your diet.
You can even have fresh fruit and vegetables without a huge, well-developed garden or aquaponics setup.
Now, this article is all about veggies and how to make them long term storage type foods but that’s not the only thing these articles are good for. There’s still got a ton of great information you’re going to want. Don’t forget to stay tuned for the other articles in this series of articles. The work has already been done to uncover the best items for your long-term comfort and survival. When stressful times exist, everyone is going to want to eat great food. Here’s how:
How to keep vegetables and fruit for the long-term
OK, here’s the deal: fresh produce doesn’t last long. There are more than a few secrets with you to help you extend the lifespan of fresh cut vegetables for your storage. It’s just that you’ll need to make an accommodation to allow that to happen. A root cellar is the answer. A what? A root cellar is a cool, humidity controlled container which allows your veggies to last for a very long time. How about lettuce that lasts for two months, garlic that will last two years, squash that will last three years or other root veggies which will last at least two years. THAT’S longevity.
This particular article is meant to whet your appetite and isn’t a big enough forum to cover the actual design and building of a root cellar (there will definitely be a few articles on that topic going forward). Let’s not get into details but simply basic concepts, for now. We WILL however talk more extensively about root cellars in the near future so we won’t be skirting that issue.
But let’s get you salivating for some fresh produce that doesn’t require a fully developed garden or hydro/aqua setup.
Which Fruits and Vegetables Will Work?
Ginger, Onions, Beets, Potatoes, Squash and Hearty leafy greens as well as cabbage are all perfect candidates for root cellaring. The usual suspects can be included of course as well, including apples, carrots, turnips, pumpkin and celery.
Each type of fruit or vegetable will require a different treatment to ensure longevity without refrigeration. But it’s important to note that many items have substantially similar treatments, humidity levels and timelines. For instance, cabbage and celery, leafy greens like kale and chard all store incredibly well in sand with a controlled humidity at the same level. The result is about 3-5 months peak longevity with very little waste involved.
Additionally, squash of all types, potatoes, yams, onions and turnips can all be stored in similar conditions. The key is that they are all “cured” properly in their own unique ways. So, after you prepare the items, you can store them in a very similar environment.
Root cellars are used all around the globe for storing produce.
The best part of the root cellaring ideology is that you don’t have to actually have a cellar, or even a lot of space. In third world countries, “root cellars” are often built out of terracotta pots, sand and water. An unused trashcan can be buried, incorporated with hay and newspaper and covered properly to provide a very cheap and easy to maintain root cellar.
The key to root cellaring is the controlling of humidity (some items need more, some need less). That’s the main reason why different storage vessels make some sense.
What Else Can Be Stored Long Term?
Let’s talk more about the types of food you can store though, because that’s what this is all about. Having fresh produce on hand even when you cannot guarantee access from your garden or the grocer is important.
Ginger root is an excellent vegetable for root cellaring. The rind that forms on the ginger allows the moisture to stay intact until it’s broken, and the relatively firm flesh keeps bruising to a minimum. It is bruising which causes vegetables and fruits to speed up degradation. You know that old saying: “One bad apple ruins the whole bushel”? It’s true. You need ripe, unblemished, uncut and non-bruised produce for root cellaring.
Garlic can be made to last for significant periods of time if properly stored in a root cellar. Having fresh, spicy, sharp garlic on hand can aid in a bunch of different preparations, including for medical reasons. Garlic can last 6 months on your counter, but 18 months or more in a proper root cellar situation. That’s longevity.
Beets and other similar items (like turnips and potatoes) are easy targets for root cellar advocates. These can last over a year, without any significant degradation to taste or texture. The biggest argument for a cellar is that the produce tastes infinitely better than waterlogged canned versions you buy in the store.
Get Started Now!
Now a few words to the wise: veterans of root cellaring will say without question that home grown produce lasts MUCH longer than store bought produce. If you cannot get your garden producing in time, but want to get your root cellar started there is a strategy. Visit a local produce farm and pick high quality specimens then utilize proper “curing” techniques. Get informed on the proper storage conditions for each variety, then combine the techniques.
P.S. Don’t worry, you won’t be left hanging on a root cellar setup, but this article was just an introduction. There is a ton of great content on food storage coming down the pipeline, because you are probably hungry for great food in your storage.