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September 29, 2011 5:03 pm
It's an exciting time of year: Fall is here, and the rewards of a summer garden, including onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, winter squash and more, are coming fast and furious.
"Canning and preserving are two favorite ways to keep favorite fruits and vegetables tasting in-season fresh throughout the winter," says Maree Gaetani, director of gardening relations for Gardener's Supply. "But for those of us who don't have time or interest in canning and preserving, there are a number of crops that can be stored 'as is' in cool, dry and dark conditions—no root cellar required."
Gardeners can consider these practical harvest tips and products when putting their favorites away for the winter:
1. Harvest before frost or cold temperatures damages plant tissues—and be picky about what you pick! Since decay will accelerate and spread once a crop is in storage, keep only perfect specimens. Provide good air circulation and a dry, dark environment: The ideal temperature depends on what you're keeping.
A root storage bin creates a portable, affordable root cellar in any dark place. The heavy, wire frame bin with convenient carrying handles is lined with natural, breathable jute to protect precious carrots, beets, potatoes, turnips and squash. Layer carrots or beets with damp sand or sawdust, or toss other vegetables right into the bin, and they'll keep all winter.
2. Freeze your favorites. Freezing is a fast and easy way to save vegetables, fruit and herbs for later use. Buy the best quality freezer bags you can find, remove as much air as possible from the bag and label all bags with date and contents. Herbs are the easiest crop to freeze: Just chop to size (for parsley and cilantro) and fill a freezer bag or puree (for basil) with olive oil. Berries can be frozen whole or in syrup. Vegetables need to be blanched before freezing to slow down the enzymes that cause decay.
3. Rescue unripe tomatoes! If cold weather arrives before your entire tomato crop has ripened, harvest firm, green, unblemished fruit and wrap each tomato individually in newspaper. Store between 55-60 degrees F and check weekly to monitor ripening.
4. Store crops right in the garden. The easiest way of all to preserve your harvest is to leave crops right in the ground and put something on top to protect them from extreme cold. A length of Gardener's exclusive Garden Quilt Cover, suspended just over your crops using hoops and wooden clothespins, allows rain and sun to reach plants while keeping them safe from wind and chilly temperatures.
5. Refrigerate root crops. Harvest carrots and beet crops before a hard frost, use scissors to cut off most of the greens (except for about ½" on top so as not to cut into the root), and leave the dirt until you're ready to cook!
For more information, visit http://www.gardeners.com/.
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