How to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables with Cold Storage This Winter

baskets of fresh food

By now you are probably starting to harvest some food from your garden.

Depending on where you live, you might have a lot or a little. It’s the end of July and here in Colorado my harvest has only just started.

But I know that come October, I will have more fresh food in my house than I know what to do with.

So today I want to talk about preserving your food with the cold storage method.

Growing up in Texas, I didn’t even know this was possible. We didn’t have a basement and it was warm most of the year.

And while this isn’t a method to preserve all foods, many fruits and vegetables can be preserved with this method.

baskets of potatoes

What is cold storage of food?

Cold food storage is a basic food preservation method. If you live in a climate with true winters (freezing temperatures), you have what you need to keep many vegetables and fruits in good condition for months after harvesting.

Cold storage won’t work for climates where it is warm all year round or where it doesn’t stay cold most of the winter.

Cold storage uses cool, moderately humid areas of your home to keep some kinds of food fresh for several months without modern day methods of freezing, refrigeration, or canning.

This is the way people kept food good through the winter for centuries before modern techniques were available.

What types of fruits and vegetables can be preserved with cold storage?

Fruits: Apple, Pear

Vegetables: Dry beans, corn, garlic, onion, potato, sweet potato, winter squash, shallot, beet, cabbage, carrot, celery, leek, parsnip, rutabaga, turnip

For a complete list and how to harvest them, you can check out Mother Earth News.

How do you preserve using the cold storage method?

Garlic, onion, pumpkin, shallot: store in boxes or mesh bags in a cool place with moderate humidity

Dry beans: store in airtight jars in cool, dark place

Parsnip, turnip, rutabaga: Refrigerate or pack in damp sand in a sealed container and store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.

Potato: Store in closed boxes or cloth-covered baskets in a cool place with moderate humidity, or store in buried containers.

Pumpkin, winter squash, sweet potatoes: Store in bushel baskets or on shelves in a cool place with moderate humidity.

Carrot, celery: Refrigerate or pack in damp sand in a sealed container and store in a cold basement, garage or root cellar.

Apple, pear: Store in refrigerator or very cold place, below 40 degrees, in perforated plastic bags or waxed boxes to maintain high humidity. Check weekly.

baskets of apples

How long will my food last with these methods?

I love this chart from Better Hens and Gardens that shows how long these foods will be good for in cold storage:

How can I make a cold storage system (root cellar) in my home?

There are several ways to incorporate a cold storage system in your home.

Here are a few bloggers that have done this very well, so I will refer you to their blogs to learn more:

Set Up A Root Cellar In A Closet @ Simple Bites

Build Your Own Root Cellar Using An Old Refrigerator @ The Owner-Builder Network

Building An Underground Root Cellar @ Robert’s Projects

Root Cellar Storage Shelving @ Handimania

Why Is Cold Storage Important?

Cold storage is a great option for food preservation because it doesn’t require electricity or technology. All you need is a cool, dark place in your house with some humidity. You don’t need any fancy equipment and it doesn’t cost money to put into place.

Cold Storage Tips To Make Food Last Longer:

  1. Store the best versions of each vegetable. Pick the best looking options of your food to store and use the other ones first because they won’t last as long.
  2. Follow the harvest and storage rules. Use the link for Mother Earth News above to find out how to harvest and store each fruit or vegetable.
  3. Keep the fruit and vegetables away from each other. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables.
  4. Check on the food monthly and use or throw away the ones that are going bad. Try to incorporate this food you have saved in your weekly meals so you don’t let them store over their ripeness.

Cold storage is a great way to keep some of your garden harvest longer than normal. It does take some thought before hand, but the payoff will be great.

You can use some of the links above to see how you can incorporate cold storage/root cellar at your homestead. Storing food all winter long, whether you use cold storage, canning, freezing or whatever, is a main homesteading ideal. It will help you be more self sufficient and rely on the food you have grown on your own instead of the grocery store.

cold storage pin

Do you use cold storage methods for your homestead? Let us know what you do in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

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  1. Summer Mitch Ryan

    I was intrigued, but a bit disappointed I couldn’t use this method as it is warm here most of the time. I have problems preserving fruits and vegetables that’s why I’m looking for ways. Thanks.

    1. Julie @ Our Provident Homestead

      Yes. I know. I grew up in Texas and we couldn’t do it either. But it works great for those that can. I guess it’s back to canning, freezing and dehydrating.

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