The season of long lasting squash and root vegetables has arrived.

Winter squash chilling in a cool room

Last year Tom and I had a banner year of Blue Hubbard squash, not this year. Which is ok by me, though last year the Blue Hubbard squash fed us through to spring. This year we have a bountiful crop of butternut squash. The squash was cut from their vines when ripe and cured in the sun a few weeks back. They came in before the frosts to be stored in a cool room out of direct light.

The onions were pulled once the stems softened and fell over. We laid them on a rack with good air circulation to cure. Once the stems had dried they were braided and hung in the unheated garage. The garlic harvested in July was hung and dried for six plus weeks before cut down, trimmed, sorted and now stored in a similar location as the onions. The largest bulbs were planted in October. It’s still not too late to plant your garlic! Just be sure to mulch it well.

There is a pattern here, storage in cool dark spaces.

In an earlier time before central heat people had areas of their homes that froze in winter or if they were lucky it stayed cold but didn’t freeze. Root cellars were in the basement, dug into the side of a hill or in a cold room used for winter storage. My Great Aunt had a cold room off her farmhouse kitchen with easy access to her stored crops.

This time of year I always wish I had a root cellar. The Nelson Library has a book called Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel. In a corner of the cover in a white multi-pointed star it says “Keep your produce ‘Harvest-Fresh’ in your own basement, porch, garage or closet hideaway!” I’ve been using this book to learn various methods to keep produce that is new to my garden.

Swiss chard root – edible just like beets!

Various crops require specific temperatures and humidity to remain peak as long as possible. More than likely at one time or another we have all gone to the vegetable bin of our refrigerator only to find a carrot that looks to be 1,000 years old or has turned to mush. This book helps demystify the problem.

Mike and Nancy Bubel provide excellent directions to make a root cellar in a basement, but until we get around to making it, the next best thing is storing those (new to me) Globe turnips in damp leaves in an open container in an unheated protected room. Beets, carrots and potatoes are relatively easy to store over winter in sand, sawdust, peat moss, wild moss or leaves. Nature provides the perfect resource by dropping leaves just when we need to harvest those root crops.

I also stored some Swiss chard roots this year. When digging the roots a week ago I came across a strange root that didn’t grow vertical, instead it grew horizontal. In the comment section below, put your guesses how long you think the root grew? I’ll post the answer in a week. I look forward to your guesses.

Onions hanging in the garage

Garlic stored in a basket

Damaged turnip, to be eaten soon, it will not store well

A rather “human” parsnip

Turnips in being prepared for winter storage