Yard and Garden: Storing Fall Garden Produce

October 12, 2016, 3:18 pm | Richard Jauron, Greg Wallace

AMES, Iowa – While farmers work in the fields to harvest their crops, home gardeners can do the same. With luck there’s more than anyone can use in a week or two, which means storage is needed.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer questions about storing produce and maximizing its potential. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

How do I store winter squash? 

Winter Squash

After harvesting, cure winter squash (except for the acorn types) at a temperature of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 80 to 85 percent. Curing helps to harden the skin on winter squash and heal any cuts and scratches. Do not cure acorn squash. The high temperature and relative humidity during the curing process actually reduce the quality and storage life of acorn squash. 

After curing, store winter squash in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Storage temperatures should be 50 to 55 F.  Do not store squash near apples, pears or other ripening fruit. Ripening fruit release ethylene gas, which shortens the storage life of squash.  

When properly cured and stored, the storage lives of acorn, butternut and hubbard squash are approximately five to eight weeks, two to three months and five to six months, respectively.

How do I store sweet potatoes?

After harvest, cure sweet potatoes for one week at a temperature of 80 to 85 F and relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent. Curing promotes healing of minor cuts and bruises, prolonging the storage life of the sweet potatoes. Curing also improves the flavor of sweet potatoes as starches are converted to sugars during the curing process. After curing, store sweet potatoes at a temperature of 55 to 60 F and relative humidity of 85 to 90 percent. 

Storage temperatures above 60 F may stimulate sprouting. Sweet potatoes may develop an off-flavor and the flesh may become discolored when stored at temperatures below 55 F. If properly cured and stored, sweet potatoes can be stored for four to six months.

How do I store parsnips?

Harvest parsnips in mid- to late November as cool fall temperatures convert starch to sugar and give parsnips their distinctive flavor. After harvest, trim the foliage back to within 1 inch of the roots. Store parsnips at a temperature of 32 F and a relative humidity of 95 to 98 percent. Small quantities can be placed in perforated plastic bags and stored in a refrigerator. A basement storage room or root cellar are suitable storage sites for large quantities. 

How do I store salsify?

Harvest salsify in mid- to late November as cool fall temperatures enhance the oyster-like flavor of the roots. After harvest, trim off the foliage 1 inch above the roots and store the salsify at a temperature of 32 F and a relative humidity of 95 to 98 percent.  

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