Storing onions and potatoes

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Quint, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

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    I've been having trouble storing potatoes and onions since I have moved into my new home. It is just insulated too darn well and I don't have a cool spot to keep them. Is there any way I can keep them for longer term where it is not root cellar cool? My basement even seems to be too warm. I would just store them in the old root cellar here on the farm but it had a catastrophic failure a couple of years ago and caved in. Can you give me any tips as to how to store onions and potatoes? In a box with newspaper? In sand? In sealed containers? In non-sealed containers? In the refrigerator? We always kept our potatoes and onions in wicker baskets or wooden bins in a root cellar but they are buried under bricks and earth and are probably broken anyway. I have a wooden box in the kitchen but my potatoes seem to shrivel up pretty bad in there and the onions are sprouting bad.

    I'd like to just build another root cellar closer to my house but I'm not going to be able to do it any time soon. I have to build a new shed, a pole barn, a new chicken coop and put fence in this spring and summer plus try to get some work done to the house. I think like most homesteaders I have too many projects that need to be done and not enough time and money to get them all done. Not enough hours in the day it seems.
     
  2. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My mom taught me this trick. Store your onions in pantyhose! Slide an onion down to the toe, tie a knot. Slide another onion in, tie a knot. Repeat until you've reached the top. Hang the panty hose over a nail (Mama hangs hers in the carport or unheated utility room). When you need an onion just cut a slit in the pantyhose and pull one out.

    When I was a kid we always stored potatoes in an empty barn stall. Daddy lined it with straw, spread the potatoes out on the straw so none of them were touching and then covered them with straw.

    It's the touching part that causes problems with onions and potatoes. And the heat of course. Could you fix a box of straw on your back porch for the potatoes?
     

  3. LittleBelle

    LittleBelle Active Member

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    Great Tips RavenLost :) I've heard of putting onions in a pantyhose but never tried it and didn't know they aren't suppose to touch.
    Thanks :)
     
  4. birdie_poo

    birdie_poo Well-Known Member

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    I do that, too. You should have seen the look on my husband's face the first time I did it...he must have thought I had gone mad! I learned it by watching a documentary on poor African Americans in the South. One woman had bunches of strands of onions in hose, and the guy asked her about it. They last much longer, and them not touching keeps them from getting infected with the black fungus, should one get them.

    Potatoes, I just keep in an open air fruit basket. We really don't eat too many of them, so I normally don't have lots to keep for any prolonged period of time.
     
  5. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    Eliot Coleman has a pretty good plan for a root cellar in a basement in one of his books. It uses a window to the outside, and the principles of heat rising and cold falling. It is insulated to be independent of the rest of the basement.
     
  6. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We braid our onions with old baling twine and hang the resulting 3 foot long strings from nails in the joist in the ceiling of the cool part of the basement. Onions don't need it quite as cool as potatoes. Our potatoes are washed and put in old fruit boxes, the kind that 18 or 20 pound of peaches used to come in. We grow 25 or so varieties of potatoes so have lots of boxes to keep them all straight. Our unheated part of the basement has an outside window that we open to help cool the space off in the early fall, and the room stays about 35 to 55 degrees, usually 35 to 45 from Oct until May. I like it cool as I also store our apple crop in another part of the room.
    This room is seperated from the rest of the basement by a brick wall and a wood door.
    Our onions are showing a few sprouts, as our the potatoes, but not enough to affect the eating quality of the potatoes. Last year we threw out some usable potatoes when we started digging new potatoes in late May. Our apples (from our own trees) are holding up good too, and sometimes last into late May also.
    I would recommend partitioning off a small room insulated from the rest of the basement, with an outside window or vent to bring in cool outside air to cool it off when needed. I keep meaning to add a fan and thermostat to bring in outside air when needed, but so far it has been no problem to open and close the window manually as needed.
    Good luck.

    Jim
     
  7. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the suggestions. I may try to create some sort of storage room in my basement. It is heated but I am going to try to close off a part near an outside wall and see if I can get it to cool down.

    What I would really like to do is build a proper root cellar outside my basement door. I have a little hillside right near the walkout that would be perfect for building a fairly decent sized root cellar. Something about 8 ft wide and 12 or 15 feet deep/long and 8 feet high would be a pretty good compromise between size and cost. My old cellar was about 6 wide and 8 ft deep/long and barely 6 ft high. It was a little cramped and with me being 6'7" I hated having to always bend over when I was inside. In fact I put an old office chair down there so when i was working I could sit instead of stand and constantly be bent over and bumping my noggin.
     
  8. Ann-NWIowa

    Ann-NWIowa Well-Known Member Supporter

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    When we built our home we had them leave the area under the front steps open to the basement. It has an insulated door into between it and the rest of the basement so stays cool. We store potatoes and carrots in this space. We are still using potatoes put into storage last fall. The original intent was for tornado safety area i.e. cement on all sides and above and no windows. My dh built a potato bin in half of the space so there is barely room for the two of us when the sirens go off! By the way, you never want to refrigerate potatoes as it changes the starch to sugar or vice versa and ruins the flavor.
     
  9. KindredCanuck

    KindredCanuck In Remembrance

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    put an apple with your potatoes will help stop sprouting

    KC~
     
  10. Bluecreekrog

    Bluecreekrog Well-Known Member

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    At my city house I have an outside entrance to the basement with bulkhead doors and a stairway, we put a tarp over the doors to keep the water out and an old piece of scrounged carpet on top for insulation. Then stack the onions and potatos on the steps in milk crates. Access is from a second door at the bottom of the steps. The stairway walls are cut stone same as the foundation of the house, the steps are cement. We don't store a lot of onions so long term storage isn't a problem. When temps go to the single digits we open the lower door and allow the warmer air from the basement in.
    Rog
     
  11. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

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    I have the same situation you do, no place or time to deal with root cellar right now - our basement had a kerosene spill in it and I can't get rid of the smell - I don't want to store any food down there until
    that problem is corrected.
    In the meantime, I have found that keeping the onions far away from the potatoes helps a little, but I'm not sure why.