Top Tips to Keep Fall Vegetables Fresh

The magic of cool-weather vegetables is that they are designed by nature to last a long time. Fall squash, root vegetables and cabbages, in particular, are meant to feed us through the slow-growing season. These and leafy greens are the bulk of the locavore’s diet throughout the fall and winter, and we appreciate them just as much as the typically anticipated summer harvest.

The key to eating well all year is to store your fall vegetables properly! We put together our best tips for fall- and winter-vegetable storage so you can keep yours in top shape until you’re ready to eat them.

The customizable Fall CSA Farm Share begins next week! We expect that you will get to choose from all of the veggies covered here, plus some of our summer favorites—until the first frost causes them to stop producing. Elmwood Stock Farm CSA shareholders get first choice of everything on the farm. The online store will have many options, as well, for home delivery, on-farm pickup and farmers market pickup—plus all of your favorite meats for nationwide shipping. 

Here are some vegetables we expect to see coming up:

Celery

This essential ingredient for soups and stuffings is full of crunch because of its water content: Celery is 94% water!

You’ll receive your celery in a bunch of cut stalks—not in heads as you see in the grocery store. Recut the ends and stand up in a jar of water in the fridge. It should keep for up to two weeks. 

Celery maintains its flavor when frozen, and the leaves dehydrate nicely. To freeze, slice and spread out on a cookie sheet. Place into the freezer. When frozen, pack into an airtight container to store in the freezer. Celery pieces will be soft when thawed and best used in soups and stews. Dehydrate celery leaves in a dehydrator or for an hour or so in a low oven. When crumbly, store in a sealed jar to use as a seasoning all year long.

Ginger and turmeric

These tropical rhizomes require a growing season longer than Kentucky’s to reach maturity, so you’ll find “baby” stage ginger and turmeric from Elmwood Stock Farm instead. Baby ginger and turmeric do not have the brown skin of the mature ginger and turmeric that you find in the grocery store. There is no need to peel these rhizomes: Just slice or grate as is! Use these as you would mature ginger or turmeric in recipes, smoothies, teas, juices and more.

Keep baby ginger and turmeric in a closed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Baby ginger and turmeric freeze well, and they’re easy to grate from frozen. Place whole rhizomes in a freezer bag and seal. It’ll keep for six months.

Three are three varieties of baby turmeric: orange, yellow and white. The orange baby turmeric will stain cutting boards and, temporarily, your skin. Lemon juice will help remove the stains. The other varieties cause less staining.

Brussels sprouts

These mini-cabbage-looking vegetables grow on straight stalks that reach up to 20 inches high, and you’ll receive them by the pint in a plastic bag.

Store them unwashed in their bag in the veggie bin for 1 to 2 days. The flavor is sweetest right after harvest, so try to use them soon. To prepare, remove the outermost leaves, and pare off the bottom part of the sprout stem.

Fall squash

Fall squash is harvested in late summer and early fall and stored through the fall and into winter. Elmwood Stock Farm grows several types of fall squash:

  • Butternut squash: Tan skin and shaped like a peanut. Sweet, dense orange flesh. Lends itself to sweet and savory dishes. Excellent storage squash.
  • Acorn squash: Dark green with ribs, shaped like an acorn. Pale-orange or deep yellow flesh. Best for savory recipes. Stores well.
  • Delicata squash: Small and oblong with yellow and green coloring. More delicate, with edible skin. Doesn’t store as long.
  • Spaghetti squash: Pale-yellow flesh that forms spaghetti-like threads when cooked. Stores well. 
  • Kabocha squash: Several types of kabocha,  ranging in color and flavor. Primarily for soup and curry.
  • Honeynut squash: Smaller than but most similar to butternut. Very sweet, nutty flavor.

Store all fall squash in a cool, dry, dark place at around 50 degrees. They get sweeter in storage as the starch converts to sugar. Once cut, wrap them in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

To freeze, cook the squash, and then mash or puree it. Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop the frozen cubes into freezer bags. Alternatively, peel and cube the squash, and freeze the uncooked cubes on a baking tray. Store in a freezer bag.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a staple of seasonal eating. We plant these in the late spring, harvest them in late September and early October, and store and eat on them nearly until it’s time for planting again. With luck, you will be offered several varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and one of white-fleshed. The orange sweet potatoes are sweet and starchy, just as you’d expect. The white ones are a Japanese variety that are more starchy, slightly less sweet. 

Store sweet potatoes at room temperature. Refrigeration will cause them to harden and turn black when you cook them! 

In the first week or so, you might receive fresh sweet potatoes. These will want to be used fairly soon. Once we have time to cure the sweet potatoes—store them in a warm place to thicken their skins and set their starches—the sweet potatoes you receive will keep for weeks or even months.

Leafy greens

Elmwood Stock Farm offers leafy greens to you year round, though these greens become more prolific as the weather cools. Arugula, kale, baby kale, mizuna, spinach, lettuces, salad mix, bok choy, tatsoi and Swiss chard may make appearances soon.

Store leafy greens in the fridge inside a perforated plastic bag. If you chop and wash ahead of time, spin the leaves dry before placing them back in the bag with a dry paper towel to absorb the moisture. 

Refresh limp leafy greens by plunging them into ice water. 

Root vegetables

Falling into this category are many of the items you’ve had this summer—hakurei turnips, salad radishes, beets and carrots—as well as some that are specific to the fall. Winter radishes will be here soon. These include watermelon radish, black radish and daikon radish. We may also see different varieties of turnips, as well as rutabaga. 

If your root vegetables still have greens attached, cut them off. Keep the greens refrigerated in a closed plastic bag. Store the roots, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the crisper bin of your refrigerator. The roots should last for weeks.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a cool-weather crop, available only in the early summer or fall. Broccoli is delicate and does not like to get warm. Refrigerate it immediately, wrapped loosely in a plastic bag, and keep it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. It keeps for over a week but is firmest and tastiest if used within a few days. To freeze, blanch broccoli 2 to 4 minutes, rinse under cold water, drain, let dry, and pack into freezer bags. Broccoli will not be firm when thawed and is best used in soups and stews.  

Bookmark this article to refer to with each fall vegetable purchase so you can be sure to keep your veggies as fresh as possible throughout the season.

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