It’s time to start thinking about storage crops!!!
As we enter the fall season you’ll be seeing more and more “storage vegetables” at market. These crops, as the name implies, can be stored for months at a time, allowing you to continue eating good local food through the long winter months, even while the vegetable fields of CT are buried in snow.
Potatoes, winter squash, beets, carrots, turnips, onions & garlic are the storage crops that we grow, and there will be bulk amounts of these available in October for customers who want to stock up before the growing season comes to an end. Additional storage crops to stock up on from other local farms include cabbage, rutabaga, kohlrabi, apples & pears.
It is a remarkable thing that root vegetables can stay sweet, crunchy and delicious in your refrigerator… for as long as 7 months! Believe me, it’s true. I have lost many a beet to the back of my refrigerator, only to roast it for dinner upon finding it many months later. Delish!
Root veggies (beets, carrots & turnips), that are separated from their greens promptly, keep well in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Winter squash likes temperatures in the 50-55 degree range with higher humidity. A basement would work well for large amounts, though keeping a few Butternut squash on your kitchen counter or pantry should work just fine. You might have to eat them within 3 months instead of 6 in that scenario. (The University of Maine put together an extensive chart of favorable conditions for vegetables for reference.)
Mother Earth News has an article with many creative (sometimes over the top) ways to store you storage crops at home. My advice is not to worry about the perfect conditions you don’t have at home, but to think creatively about the spaces you do have that are cool, dark, out of the way, or refrigerated.
In summary: there is no reason why any of us have to go back to buying all our groceries in the sad sad produce isle of the grocery store just because market is over. A 10 pound bag (each!) of beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, and turnips should keep you eating delicious, nutritious vegetables well into the winter.
Be a local food hero and stock up on storage crops!
Before we bought our farm last year, it was a hayfield for as long as anyone can remember. As a result we have deep, rich topsoil that has accumulated over the years of perennial growth and decomposition. It also means that our field is compacted – the result of years of machines driving over it to cut and bale hay.
Compaction makes it difficult for plants to get all the nutrition and water available underground, and can cause drainage problems in the spring. This year we bought a broadfork – a 5 foot tall fork with five, 14-inch blades for tines. By forking the majority of our field with this tool, we’ve managed to break through a lot of the compacted sub-soil. A carrot we pulled yesterday (photo above) is evidence that all that effort is paying off. That taproot is almost 2 feet long!
Here is an article on pollinators from one of our favorite winter-time reads, the FedCo tree catalog:
“We owe thanks to our pollinators for giving us food to eat and seeds to grow. Bees, birds, bats, moths, flies and butterflies gather protein-rich pollen and sugary nectar from flower to flower while cross-pollinating our food crops and almost every plant we see.
Yet many of our pollinator species are threatened, endangered or extinct from widespread chemical use on farms and gardens, genetically modified crops, and loss of habitat due to development. Bees are considered a “keystone” species, meaning that many other species depend on them for survival. Their extinction means our extinction. So why do we continue to harm them while at the same time demanding so much?
We can begin to help our pollinators by incorporating native plants back into our landscape and creating forage in places where it’s lacking. We can make our gardens a natural habitat for insects rather than a toxic place that only exists for our enjoyment. It’s a critical time to create gardens that mimic the native environment and help our suburbias (and farms!) be a little more natural.
Over millions of years, plants and pollinating insects have evolved together. Certain pollinators favor certain flowers depending on which colors they can see or which shapes their mouthparts fit into.”
Visit their website for a giant list of pollinator-friendly plants, trees, and shrubs to get your garden buzzing.
Look in any direction on a farm and there is a new opportunity to worry.
Are those brown leaves at the base of my tomato plants the dreaded late blight? Those potato plants look great, but are there actually any potatoes under there? Will the cucumbers set fruit before there are so many cucumber beetles that each fruit will be damaged by one of their curly-cue drawings on its skin?
It’s a feast for the neurotic and over-anxious out there in the field. It comes with the territory of diversification. We plant over __ varieties of vegetables in order to spread our risk each season. But each of these cultivars comes with its own schedule and particularities, making it a logistical whirlwind to keep our field full, productive and healthy.
Time management fits neatly into the equation as well. Once harvest begins in earnest, there is precious little time left after picking, washing, packing, and marketing, to do other farm tasks.
Should we stake the peppers, weed the onions, or seed more lettuce mix? Mowing the lawn seems overly aesthetic compared to the rest of the to-do list, but the grass is so long that the neighbors are wondering if we’re cutting hay off it. Is the weather good for foliar feeding the kale? I don’t know. Didn’t you just check the weather? Yeah, but I already can’t remember what it said.
And so you have to stop worrying. More out of self-preservation than anything else. You can only spin in so many circles, looking at all the work to be done, before you get dizzy. Jonathan made a list this spring that is still on the refrigerator. It is an epic list of all the building projects we are trying to get done on the farm and inside the house. In a few spots, snuck in between the to-do’s, he wrote “smile”. Silly as it sounds, just reading the word makes me smile, which is usually accompanied by a deep breath. And breathing is as good a first step as any toward doing something.
This week’s harvest:
Tuesdays | 4 – 7 PM
Farmington Ave. btw Woodland and Owen
Saturdays | 3 – 6 PM
Mansfield Town Hall Lawn