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Storing Vegetables for Winter

Potatoes in bucket1
Red onion braids
Red onion braids for winter storing

When harvest time comes for each crop, be thorough. The best specimens will go right to the table.  What you can’t use fresh store for later use. Crops that are damaged should still be picked and sent to the compost pile.

Harvest varies from crop to crop and also with your taste. You may prefer some vegetables young, small, and succulent; others you may prefer harvested mature.

Many root crops can be left in the ground in all but the coldest of regions. Lift these vegetables, as you need them. Root crops can also be stored in a cool but frost-free dark place. Clean root crops before storing them in sand or sterilized soil.

Other crops can be stored on shelves or in boxes. Just make sure these crops do not touch. Onions and garlic can be kept in open sacks or tied by string. Cabbage will keep in nets for two or three months. Brussels sprouts and turnips are best left in the garden until you need them.

Vegetables for freezing should be blanched or cooked before freezing.

Green beans blanched
Green beans are blanched and cooled before freezing

Quick Guide to Storing Your Harvest

· Asparagus. Eat fresh. Cook or blanch 2-4 minutes and cool before freezing. Asparagus can also be pressure canned.

· Beans. Beans should be totally dried when stored.

· Beans, Lima. Blanch in boiling water for 2-4 minutes, cool immediately, seal and freeze.

· Beets (beetroot). Shelf storage or pickle. Lift and twist-off top and store in moist peat or vermiculite. Beets can also be pressure canned.

· Broad beans (fava beans). Freeze or dry.

· Broccoli. Best eaten fresh. Cut central shoot first to encourage side-shoots. Continue harvest until after the first frost without protection. Broccoli can be frozen. It becomes discolored and develops a strong flavor when canned.

· Brussels sprouts. Freeze or leave on plant until needed. Harvest from the bottom of the plant upwards. Brussels sprouts, like broccoli, are inferior as a canned vegetable.

· Bush beans. Blanch and freeze.

Cabbage in snow
Some crops like cabbage can remain in the garden until needed

· Cabbages. Freeze or shelf storage. Leave in the garden in mild conditions. In cold regions, hang upside down in a frost-free place for use in the winter months. Blanch for 1.5 minutes, cool, pack in containers and freeze.

· Cabbage, Chinese. Storage is not feasible except for short periods refrigerated in plastic bags.

· Carrots. Leave in the ground in mild conditions, but they may split in time. Shelf storage in moist peat or vermiculite. Carrots can better than they freeze–raw pack or hot pack. Carrots can be dried for storing.

· Cauliflowers. Blanch before freezing. Store hung upside down in the dark and keeps misted to keep fresh for a few weeks. Cauliflower can be pressure canned.

· Celeriac. Store in boxes in moist peat in a frost-free place.

· Celery. Blanch for 3 minutes before freezing. Limited shelf storage.

· Chard (Swiss chard). Harvest a few leaves from the outside as needed. Will withstand some freezing; harvest until early winter in cold regions, longer in mild regions.

corn on cob frozen
Corn on the cob can be frozen

· Corn. Pressure can or freeze whole kernel corn. To freeze whole ears, blanch for 7 to 11 minutes depending on cob size, drain well, cool, and freeze.

· Cucumbers. Use fresh or pickle.

· Eggplant (Aubergine). Cook before freezing. Pressure can hot pack only.

· Garlic. Store in sacks or strung in a frost-free place. Dry before storing.

· Greens (Spinach, Dandelions, Beet Greens, Collards, Kale, Chard, Mustard, Fiddleheads). Hot pack only spinach. All others can be frozen after blanching for 3 minutes.

· Kale. Harvest through winter.

· Kohlrabi. Leave in the ground if mild or protected. Short to medium shelf storage in boxes of moist peat in a frost-free place.

· Leeks. Freeze. Leave in the ground in mild conditions until needed. Shelf storage in a box of moist peat.

· Melons. Best eaten fresh.

· Okra. Pressure can hot pack only. Freeze after blanching for 3-4 minutes.

· Onions. In sacks or nets in a frost-free place. Tie leaves together with twine and hang. Onions can be frozen in small quantities for a quick source of diced onions.

· Parsnips. Leave in the ground until needed or late winter. Lift and store loosely packed in moist peat or vermiculite in a frost-free place. Pressure can hot pack only.

· Peas, Field (Southern and Cowpeas). Pressure can–raw pack or hot pack. Freeze after blanching for 2 minutes.

· Peas, Green. Freeze or pressure can; for dry peas, let dry on the plant.

· Peppers, Hot and Sweet. Blanch before freezing. Pickle or dry. Pressure can hot pack only.

storing potatoes
Potatoes stored on shelves in a cool, dry place for winter use

· Potatoes. Store in paper or burlap sacks in a frost-free place once cleaned and dried. Use blemished potatoes immediately. Pressure can, hot pack only. Potatoes can also be dried.

· Pumpkins. Cook before freezing. Good shelf storage if fully ripe. Leave them in the sun after cutting to allow the skin to harden. Store in a frost-free place and eat in autumn to mid-winter. Pressure can, hot pack only.

· Radishes. Eat fresh.

· Rhubarb. Cook before freezing.

· Runner beans. Freeze.

· Rutabaga (Swedes). Leave in the ground until needed (can be woody by late winter). Lift and twist-off top and store in moist peat or vermiculite. Freeze after cutting into cubes and blanching.

· Salsify. Lift and store in moist peat in a frost-free place. Some can stay in the ground for harvest until spring.

· Shallots. In sacks or nets or strung in a frost-free place.

· Soybeans.  Dry beans completely as you would dry beans.

· Spinach. Cook then freeze.

· Summer squash (Zucchini, cocozelle, yellow crookneck). Cook before freezing. Pressure can raw pack.

· Sunchokes. Cut down stems in mid-autumn; leave tubers in the ground to use as needed.

· Sweet potatoes and yams. Store in paper or burlap sacks in a frost-free place once cleaned and cured. Use blemished potatoes immediately. Pressure can dry pack or wet pack. 

· Winter squash. Shelf storage.

· Sweet corn. Freeze or pickle.

Frozen tomatoes
Small tomatoes can be halved and frozen

· Tomatoes. Cook before freezing. Pickle. Pressure can.

· Turnips. Leave in the ground until needed. Lift and twist-off top and store in moist peat or vermiculite. Freeze–blanch for 2 minutes, cool, then store in the freezer.

· Zucchini. Cook before freezing. Will store in a frost-free place for a short time at the end of the season.

Visit the Harvest Category to learn how to store individual crops.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes

Brussels sprouts stem

Planting Brussels Sprouts

Cauliflower seeding in mulch

Planting Cauliflower