I don't have a basement and we can't put in a root cellar as we are renting. What is the best way to store a large amount of potatoes and carrots through the winter months? I don't mind freezing some carrots, but we like baked potatoes and home made baked fries and we eat A LOT of them.
We have a screened in porch but I it does freeze here so I doubt that would work. We also have a garage, but they would still freeze.
But I am sure you have already figured this out without me telling you.. LOL Carrots won't keep long unless canned or frozen. taters will keep in a cool dark space.But you do not have such. So I would try to go ahead slice them up into fries. deep fry them about halfway done then lay them on a cookie sheet and freeze,. Once frozen I would vacuum pack em.
I was given an old chest freezer which we store potatoes in. I put the potatoes in plastic crates and stack them with boards between. I put vent pipes on the freezer and we painted it camoflage and it sits on the side of a bank in the woods near the house. I never buried it but it keeps the potatoes all year, usually we start running out in the spring.
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You can also dehydrate, pressure can them, or store in very dry sand. If you chose sand, you can use (for example) an inexpensive styrofoam cooler. You need about two inches of sand around each item, and it needs to be stored in the coolest spot that won't freeze. I know several people that keep root vegetables that way in my area.
How about just digging a root pit in the yard? We are going to do that.
"All of these (list of produce) can be stored in a simple pit dug in the ground and covered with an insulation of hay, straw or leaves. Digging bushel size holes and putting a mixture of vegetables in them is a good way to begin."
These are some things they list that can go in a root pit:
Burdock, parsnip, chicory, salsify, carrot, radish, beets, turnip, rutabaga Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, chinese cabbage, and ball head cabbage.
They dig a trench like pit and mound the dirt up around the hole, then they cover the pit with sticks put on top of the mounded up dirt and cover the whole thing with hay. The hay should go a foot beyond the hole. Their massive root pit is more trench like and has burlap "doors" spaced periodically, it's very impressive. Their son was getting me some cabbage and just jumped into the trench through the hay because he knew right where the door was. then he brushed hay aside and lifted a burlap door and pulled out the giant cabbage.
With just a small bushel sized hole, dig several and put a variety of vegetables in. It's good to eat up the veggies in the bushel sized hole quickly once it's uncovered and with a variety in there, it would use up all your stock evenly. Don't store potatoes with apples.
From Carla's encyclopedia:
"dig down as far as you can fairly easily dig.... line the holes bottom and sides with cardboard, straw, leaves. put your vegetables in loosely but in piles, not in bags." Within each hole put the carrots on one side, potatoes on the other and so forth. " mark the outside with stakes so you'll know where to dig for what. cover the vegetables over with more cardboard and cover the cardboard with a foot of dirt or cover the vegetables all over with more straw, leaves etc and then put dirt over that. Cover with more for a cold winter. It helps to have a ventilating pipe at the center. Cover it when it rains; when it turns bitterly cold, remove the pipe and fill with dirt." (note: CHM does NOT do it this way, they just cover with sticks and straw which has worked well for them for years and you should have seen the produce that came out of it - gorgeous)
Do you keep your bedrooms cool and have bare floors? If so, vegetables will store in flat bins under the beds. We use Rubbermaid-like bins for our carrots. They're in clean, dry sand. The potatoes are in old coolers.
What we do for apples, carrots, cabbage, and kohrabi:
We put them in ice chests. We use remote reading thermometers to monitor the temperature inside the ice chests, and open/close or move the ice chests to cooler or warmer areas to maintain a temp around 32 to 38 degrees F inside the chests. They start out, open, under a roof at the end of the garage, then get closed during the day, open at night, then closed all the time, then moved into the garage, as weather changes. Sometimes they need to be brought into the house entry when the garage is below freezing for weeks on end.
By spring, when it is getting warmer outside and they no longer stay cool enough in the ice chest, there is usually room in our garage refrigerator (which is turned off all winter). Right now (June 16th) there is about 2/3 bushel of apples and about 12 pounds of carrots in there, from last fall's harvest, still in good condition.
Some folks have expressed concern about moisture in our ice chests, but we haven't had problems. Maybe opening and closing them in the fall is letting out moisture. We don't mix different kind of foods in a single chest--carrots alone, apples alone, brassicas alone.
We have a decent root cellar so our potatoes are stored there. I would think that the ice chest idea might work for them, too.
The ice chests are just helping maintain an even temp--no ice is being used.
I know of a couple people who are trying this method in apartments--moving their ice chest out on their balcony to cool it, then inside when it gets too cold. Remote reading thermometers make all the difference in monitoring the temp inside the chest. Lots of people have ice chests, and usually don't use them in the winter, so it might be worth a try.
We had really good luck with keeping the carrots in the ground over the winter. When we wanted carrots we dug them from under the snow and dirt, let them flaw and tada fresh carrots. We pulled almost 20lbs after the snow melted in early March and they were in perfect to almost perfect condition.
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Carrots will keep well in the garden through the winter, just mulch thickly with straw/leaves etc.
My grandmama told me recently how they use to keep potatoes and cabbages in the NC mountains (I haven't tried this yet myself). She said they'd dig a big hole into the hillside, then put straw in it, then the potatoes or cabbages, and more straw. They'd plug the opening of the hole with a couple of bags stuffed with straw.
She said the potatoes kept good all winter like that. The cabbages' outside leaves would get wilted and slimy but when you pull/wash those off the inside was crisp and fresh.