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5 ways to preserve vegetables & save freezer space

With these tips, you can extend the life of fresh produce without taking up precious freezer space.

5 ways to preserve vegetables & save freezer space

1. Stagger your crops

If you grow your own vegetables, stagger plantings for a seasonal progression of crops coming to maturity. That way, you won't be overwhelmed with produce or left with gaps when there's nothing to harvest. You can also leave many vegetables in the ground until you need them.

2. Keep things in the fridge

  • Refrigerated storage is ideal for fresh vegetables. It results in little, if any, change in taste, colour and vitamin content.
  • Sweet potatoes are sensitive to cold and shouldn't be kept in the refrigerator.
  • Cucumbers, peppers and eggplant will lose moisture when stored in the refrigerator. Wrap them in plastic first.

3. Make a cold storage room

  • Some vegetables keep well if they're stored in "cold storage," a place with cold, moist air.
  • Cold storage temperatures and fridge temperatures must be similar: cold enough to slow down the deterioration of food, but not so cold that the food freezes.
  • Make sure the area has high moisture levels. This will prevent the shrivelling or wilting that happens when moisture is lost to evaporation.
  • Humidity should be between 80 and 90 percent and can be maintained by placing shallow containers of water in the shed or cellar.
  • Regulate openings to the outside to take advantage of the cooling effect of night air.

4. Organize your produce

  • Put produce needing the coldest temperatures closest to the floor.
  • Different vegetables may be stored together in a single container. Fruit should never be stored with vegetables, nor should different fruits be stored together.
  • Make sure produce is cool and dry before storing. Don't wash it.
  • Protect your stored vegetables from vermin.
  • Very cold climates are suitable for cold storage preservation of apples, pears and root crops.

5. Give each vegetable the right environment

  • Remove the leafy tops from carrots, parsnips, beets and turnips.
  • Potatoes need to be stored in a dark place to avoid sprouting and greening.
  • Onions, pumpkins and squash can be stored at higher temperatures, ideally between 10°C to13°C. Keep in dry conditions, like an attic or spare room.
  • Pumpkins and squash will keep better if allowed to mature on the vine. Inspect them regularly and remove any that are showing signs of mold or rot.
  • Onions and garlic can be braided or tied and then hung up. Leave them in the sun for a few days first to dry and harden their skins.
  • Tomatoes can be stored for up to several weeks, leaving them to ripen slowly. Just put the tomatoes away from direct sunlight and space them 15 centimetres apart to allow for air circulation.
  • When fully ripened, the tomatoes may be stored in the refrigerator for several days, but they'll gradually lose flavour.

As with fruit, you can take advantage of seasonal bounties to fill your pantry and freezer with a year-round supply. But if your freezer space is running short, remember that there's plenty of other options.

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