Eating Local for the Holidays
If you’re new to eating local and/or planning your meals seasonally, the winter holidays can be a perfect time to start! Usually we think of local abundance in temperate climates as being a summer and fall thing, but traditional holiday menu items are based on what was historically available locally this time of year. Just think of it- steaming, bright orange squash next to creamy mashed potatoes and corn bread. Whatever the specifics of your menu this year, it’s likely to include at least one item readily available at your local late-fall or early winter farmer’s market.
Who wouldn’t want to share the story of the local farmer you got your holiday ingredients from around the holiday table? The good news is, these winter vegetables are easily storable if you buy them in bulk at the local farmers market before the holidays. Here’s some tips for storing them so their as fresh as the day you got them!
Potatoes: Store potatoes in a ventilated bag in a cool, dark, and dry place. A paper bag that is cracked open or has a few holes in it provides a good ventilation/humidity balance. The refrigerator is too light (when you open it regularly) and too humid. Better in a cool basement, garage (provided it doesn’t freeze) or a cool room. Darkness is crucial to keep the potatoes from sprouting. The ideal temperature for short term (1-2 month) storage is around 40 degrees F, but they can handle it a little warmer.
*Note: Don’t store potatoes near any other vegetable you are keeping for storage, or garden seeds. Potatoes can cause seeds to leave their dormant state and begin respiration, shortening their storage time. They can also cause onions, carrots, and garlic to sprout, and shorten the storage life of apples
Apples: Many people are not aware of how well apples store if kept in the right conditions. Apples have historically been grown and eaten fresh all winter long in termperate climates. Store apples similar to potatoes, but not in the same room as potatoes. They like it cool 33-40 degrees F, and somewhat ventilated while maintaining some humidity. A cardboard box with holes is it works well if you have a basement or location cool enough to keep them cool without freezing. The crisper drawer in the refrigerator works for short term (1-2 month) storage as well.
Winter Squash: Winter squash like to live at the same temperatures people do. Room temperatures between 60-70 degrees F work well, and light doesn’t hurt them either. Many people try to store their squash in the garage or shed, but squash quality deteriorates at low temperatures, and they cannot freeze. We keep them around the house, on shelves, and in the pantry and they store into late spring. Check out our full blog post on curing and storing winter squash here:
Onions: Onions are easy to store. Just keep them in a dark and dry place in a netted bag. Ideal temperature is around 40 degrees F. They can last for a short time at room temperature or in the refrigerator, but dark and cool are better.
Garlic and shallots: Just like onions! Keep them in a dark and dry place in a netted bag. Ideal temperature is around 40 degrees F. They can last for a short time at room temperature or in the refrigerator, but dark and cool are better.
Carrots: Winter carrots are amazing! Freeing temperatures stimulate carrots to turn their starches into sugars, resulting in sweet and juicy carrots. This means buying them locally in the wintertime is really the best choice for flavor. For short-term (up to a month) carrot storage, take the entire top off the carrots without cutting the root itself. Place them in a plastic bag and keep them in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator.