10 pounds of carrots? SOLD!
October 18, 2012 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Looking into buying 10 pounds each of the following--carrots, potatoes, onions--and if I do so, how do we store them to minimize spoilage?

One of our supermarkets here is having a sale on 10 pound bags of potatoes/beets/carrots/onions and my husband and I want to get in on this.

We have a two story house--sort of--the downstairs was originally designed to be another apartment, but never was. It currently houses exercise equipment, a spare bedroom, a furnace room, and an odds'n'ends room where a very large shelf laden with our pressure canned goods resides. It's about 10-15 degrees cooler down there than the rest of the house. Obviously, massive bags of veggies could be stored down there. But what is the best way to do so?
posted by Kitteh to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My Dad used to buy several pounds of onions every year and put them in panty hose....hung them from the ceiling in the basement..... That's the old Southern way to do it...
posted by pearlybob at 6:11 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

This Mother Earth News article (single page, print) on root cellaring suggests not combining home-canned goods and open veggie storage. But perhaps a closed-but-ventilated container (like an old trunk, lined and packed with sand) would do for the relatively small amounts of vegetable storage you're talking about.

Seconding the panty hose idea (or mesh bags).
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:13 AM on October 18, 2012

Google sayeth:

Potatoes: "Do not wash harvested potatoes before putting them into large container. Make sure you choose somewhere cool and dark with good ventilation. The ideal storage temperature for potatoes is between 45 to 50 degrees, a typical temperature of a root cellar, which is significantly lower than the average home temperature."

Onions: "Onions should be kept where temperatures are 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. An unheated basement or garage is suitable as long as temperatures don’t freeze inside. The location must also be dry and low in humidity to prevent rot and molds. Any container will do as long as there is airflow."

Beets: "You will need storage containers (the best is a wooden crate or a box - plastic might not "breathe"), clean, dry sand, and a permanently cool, but not freezing, ventilated place like a root cellar, unheated pantry, or an insulated garage. Place a layer of sand in the container, lay the beets on top, put another layer of sand, another layer of beets, etc. Cover with sand. Optimal temperature recommended for storing beets is 33-39°F, at 85-95% humidity."

Carrots: See beets.
posted by xyzzy at 6:15 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

how long does it take you to go through 10 pounds of potatoes or onions? I go through 2 pounds of each in a week, so it would only last me 5 weeks. For that time period you could just keep it in your kitchen in a plastic ventilated container, or a ventilated sack if that's what it already came in (burlap or mesh, the plastic bags with holes seem to make things mushy)

dunno about carrots and beets but others seem to have given advice for that.
posted by saraindc at 6:19 AM on October 18, 2012

I think actual root cellars were quite a bit cooler than what we now think of as "cellar temperature" and also rather drier than many modern basements, depending on where you live. Of course, you live in Eastern Canada, which is pretty prime root cellar country I believe so you may actually be OK. And we're heading into the right time of year for it.

The idea behind a root cellar though is that it is unheated and simply dug down below the frost line where soil temperatures are a nice stable almost-freezing during the winter months. A basement is not necessarily a root cellar.

Onions might keep quite a while though, since they tend to do so anyway as long as they're kept dry. Carrots and potatoes though will dry out and go squishy if left alone, and potatoes will sprout. You could potentially still keep them for quite a while (I'd be more optimistic about the carrots than the potatoes, which I would want to refrigerate if I were you).

What I would do is I would buy those ten-pound bags and I would use them to make an absolute shitload of homemade chicken soup for all of like $20 extra including the chickens, and I would freeze it down in tupperware and then give away to my friends any of it that wouldn't fit in my freezer.

Doubtless I would still have some veggies left over, and I would put some of those in my fridge and others of them in my cellar. I would use up the cellar ones first. Ta-dah!
posted by Scientist at 6:23 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

If by 10-15 degrees cooler you mean your basement is 55-60 degrees, that seems too warm for long-term storage of carrots and beets at least. It should be fine for potatoes and onions, though. If you store anything in sand, keep in mind that unless your room space has very high humidity (above 80%) you need to keep the sand slightly damp, not dry. Except for onions, which need the driest storage you can muster.
posted by drlith at 6:47 AM on October 18, 2012

Except for carrots, that's not a very large quantity of those vegetables. I would just cook them en masse and freeze the results: caramelized onions especially, but also mashed potatoes, or potatoes julienned for hash browns, sliced carrots, etc.
posted by supercres at 7:14 AM on October 18, 2012

Before storing potatoes, onions or garlic for the winter, you should cure them first.

Really, if you have the space and the time, it might be better to freeze the potatoes since you have to cook them before eating. It may seem like a lot of work to peel, blanch and process 30-40lbs of potatoes at one time but it's is a real time saver when you're busy and everyone's waiting for dinner. Just don't freeze raw potatoes.

According the U of Minn extension office, you don't store onions and potatoes together long term because potatoes should be stored at 40 degrees and onions will sprout at that temperature. Which makes sense because my mother always stored the two together when she was feeding a family of five - neither item was stored for very long.
posted by jaimystery at 7:17 AM on October 18, 2012

Onions keep really well in the leg of old pantyhose. Slide one in, tie a knot, slide in the next one and then hang them up somewhere cool and dry.
posted by wwax at 8:29 AM on October 18, 2012

I agree with supercres. Ten pounds of potatoes is hardly enough to bother with long-term storage. Our family could go through 10lbs of potatoes in less than a month, no problem. If they don't fit easily into the fridge, I have even kept them out on the counter (in a paper bag so they stay in the dark and don't get green). Same thing with onions. I regularly buy the 5lb bags at the grocery store, and they get used up quickly enough that I wouldn't bother with trying to figure out a long-term storage option. One sizeable batch of caramelized onions will take care of 3-4lbs of that 10lb bag.
posted by fancyoats at 8:58 AM on October 18, 2012

Finished basement != root cellar, even in Québec. (Also: finished basement != wine cellar.) Prove it to yourself by putting a thermometer in the coolest possible area (away from the furnace, next to an exterior unfinished wall if you have any.) You are probably not going to be in the range described by xyzzy, and it may be humid there, too.

I'd suggest using your garage if you have one, keeping in mind that you'll have to insulate them or bring them in if winter hits hard and early. Put a thermometer in there, too.

So a ten pound bag of onions and potatoes shouldn't be a problem, but buying multiples means applying some strategy.
posted by maudlin at 9:02 AM on October 18, 2012

I think I'd slice or dice the onions and freeze them, as that's a lot easier than storing them and having them sprout or rot. Same with the carrots, although frozen potatoes don't excite me very much.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:08 AM on October 18, 2012

I buy bags of onions, potatoes, and carrots at Costo. Not sure if they're 10 pound bags or not (not at home to check) but that sounds about right. I just stick them in the fridge. They never go bad on me. I estimate it might take me 2 months to go through them? Maybe 3? Onions in the crisper drawer, the other two just on the bottom shelf.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:08 AM on October 18, 2012

I grow a non-trivial amount of my own food on an allotment in England.

Last year (a good year) I harvested over 100 Kg of potatoes and 20 kg of onions. (I don't really like carrots and the beets get eaten before storage is a problem)

The potatoes went into jute bags and were left under the stairs that head up to the upstairs flat. It has a vent block so it quickly cools down and my flat is never kept very warm. The potatoes lasted me from July to March when they were gone. Towards the end of February they were beginning to go slightly soft and sprout eyes, but they still ate fine. The onions got strung up in the same space on 5 strings like these. The active string was in the kitchen for easy access, but the garlic string was kept in the dark except for the active head which was kept in the fridge.
posted by koolkat at 3:42 AM on October 19, 2012

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