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Collecting and Storing the Harvest

Gardeners tend to be growers. It sounds like a silly statement, but if you know any die-hard gardeners, you know what that means. They are the ones who drop off three-dozen cucumbers because they had “some” extra. Gardeners do not know how to stop from growing things, they just do as much as they can and see what comes out on the other side. So after they bring in a harvest that could feed the pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving, the Donner Party, and the Brady Bunch, what are you supposed to do with all that food? Storing vegetables for the winter is surprisingly easier than most people believe.

People harvested vegetables long before the invention of the refrigerator and other modern preservation methods. If you travel to any pre-technology era you will find that many cultures had root cellars – these were the places to store vegetables after the harvest so that families would be able to eat for the next year. Many modern people believe that vegetables need to have special treatment to keep them good. This root cellar was the perfect environment to store many vegetables until the next harvest was available.

Storing vegetables actually start with the harvest. Part of storing your harvest is knowing the right time to pluck the vegetables from the vine. Some vegetables don’t have a preference, while others are particularly persnickety about when they are harvested. If you don’t know when a good harvest time is, then ask. There’s a wealth of information online that you could use to determine the right harvest time. There are web sites and user groups – groups of people who share a common interest and usually help each other with questions and problems others may have. There are also countless books available that help gardeners. And if all else fails, you can ask for help. Many greenhouses have people who have grown things all their lives working there and could answer many of your problems in their sleep. Don’t be afraid to ask – everyone has to learn sometime, and few people understand that like the nurturing personality of a grower.

Once you have collected your harvest (at the proper time) and your kitchen, living room, and bathroom are filled with bags and boxes of vegetables, it’s time to store them. In some cases, vegetables can just be left in boxes for the winter. Basements and attics are great places for this if they are dark and cool (between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit). Don’t store them directly on the floor – too much moisture gathers and rots them. Speaking of rot – if there is any sign of bruising or decay on a vegetable, throw it away. The rotting spreads quickly and can easily wipe out an entire harvest.

There are other methods of preservation such as canning and dehydrating. However, why deal with the complicated with the simple works well? With no electricity or other modern conveniences, gardeners can enjoy their harvest year-round.

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