With the leaves changing colors and that crisp fall smell in the air, I only have one thing on my mind...getting ready for the winter that is just around the corner.
Here in South Dakota, winter is a long affair, lasting from at least November to April and the possibility of snow begins in September and ends in June. After we spend time enjoying our few glorious summer months, we begin preparing our minds and our homes for the long winter ahead.
For me, that also means preparing my pantry and filling it with all the healthy foods that I can get now so that we will have a wide variety of foods to enjoy all winter long. Canning and preserving are important of course. Filling the pantry shelves with delicious jars of everything from canned tomatoes to apple pie filling. And filling the freezer with fresh meats that we prefer to butcher before the weather gets too cold. But my favorite area to stockpile with delicious foods is my cold storage area. Our family enjoys eating as much “fresh” produce as we can possibly handle and to have squash, potatoes, carrots, and even apples that we don’t have to go to the store for is a real treat.
Creating a Fall Stockpile
Fall is the perfect time to fill your cold storage area. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still maintain a healthy cold storage pantry without having to clean out your bank account. Farmer’s Markets are a wonderful way to find produce that will be perfect for storage and don’t be afraid to ask for a deal if you are buying something in bulk, especially towards the end of the farmer’s market season.
A few vegetables that you will want to try and have in your cold storage stockpile:
- Winter Squash, Potatoes, Root Vegetables (carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, etc), Onions, and Pumpkins.
Herbs can also be a wonderful addition to a fall stockpile if you dry them and hang them up in your cold storage area.
Fruits can also be stored in a cold storage area (such as apples, pears, etc) but they will need to be stored separately from your vegetables as they need a different humidity level and they will also put off gasses that will make your potatoes begin to sprout.
Preparing Your Cold Storage Area
Be sure that you have properly cured all items. This means letting onion stems completely dry, let potatoes cure/dry for at least a week, and let winter squash sit in a dry place for at least 2 weeks. Root vegetables do not need to cure but do need to have their leafy tops removed. If items are not able to properly cure before placing them in cold storage, they will have more of a tendency to rot and get mushy very quickly, potentially spoiling your stockpile.
You need to make sure that your cold storage area can maintain a cool and dry temperature throughout the winter. It should not be able to freeze.
Each item that you store may need to be kept at a slightly different humidity level and temperature. There is a good list of these differences. If you need to keep all of your vegetables together in the same space, try and stick with a lower humidity level and a cooler room based on the veggies that you are storing. Keep in mind that the items not kept at their optimal conditions will probably need to be used first.
Maintaining Your Fall Stockpile
Be sure and check on your produce at least once a week. It will be easy to do if you are consistently using food from this stockpile. Remove any items that appear to be getting soft or moldy.
A well-kept cold storage area can last right into the spring. We usually are still left with eating up our onions as we are planting a new batch in our garden and we almost always have potatoes that are beginning to sprout that can be then planted into our new spring garden.
Keeping a cold storage is a worthy task for any homesteader, country or urban, and your family will reap the rewards all winter long. It all begins in the fall when you create your stockpile and take advantage of the delicious summer harvest before the days get short and the nights get long.