Gabriel digging sweet potatoes witht some “help” from nieces and nephews.
Have you thought about stocking up on winter vegetables to see you family through the winter? If not, then I urge you to look into it.
Creating a stock pile, rather than buying on a weekly or monthly basis, can save a lot of money on your grocery bill.
Right now, small farmers are faced with storing their excess produce for the winter, sometimes meaning a lot of work getting their storage spaces winterized. Needless to say, many of them aren’t overly excited by the prospect of all this extra effort and would rather sell it at bargain prices. So if you know of any local farmers, farmers markets, or Amish/Mennonite communities in your area, be sure to find out what these farmers might be willing to sell in bulk, and what their bulk discounts are.
Here’s a short list of things we’ve found bargains on in our area – without even really trying!
- Sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are probably my best pick for easy keepers. You can store them in shallow boxes under beds, or anywhere relatively cool and preferably dark, all winter. Gabriel and I found a farmer in an Amish community near us whose row of sweet potatoes produced more than he had expected, and way more than his family could eat this winter. As a result, he was selling them off for $12 a bushel. And did I mention that they’re organic!?!
- Potatoes. Though they bear a similar name, don’t be fooled to think that these are anything like sweet potatoes. Our storage success rate is sadly much lower with Irish potatoes than sweet potatoes. They can still be stored fairly well in the coldest, darkest, place you can manage. We typically try to pick them over for ’taters that might be going bad at least once a month. Oh, and don’t forget the “dark” part of potato storage requirements. If they start to go green, or sprout eyes, it’s goes down hill from there very quickly.
- Pumpkins, Butternut, and other winter squashes. In my experience, these don’t hold up quite as well as sweet potatoes, but almost! If you have somewhere relatively cool, like a garage, or minimally heated bedroom, or maybe a cool closet, these will keep very well for most of the winter. Lots of farmers get carried away with their winter squash planting, and unless they have pigs, they’re hard to sell after the fall holidays.
- Garlic. Garlic is harvested in early summer, so since your farmer has already been storing it for several months, he or she is probably not very excited about keeping it all winter long when customers are scarce and risk having to throw out old garlic before harvesting next years crop. Garlic also stores well in cool, dark places.
- Onions. These may be a bit harder to find, at least here In the south where the keeper varieties are more difficult to grow, but if you can find them, you want to store them in a way that gets good air circulation. Knotted pantyhose is a fairly popular method.
- Cabbage. I’ve never personally stored cabbage through the winter, but friends of mine keep theirs in an out building as long as it doesn’t freeze long and hard enough to completely freeze the cabbage. The outer leaves will dry out over the winter making the head smaller and smaller as time goes on, but the inner fresh leaves in my limited experience are still very good. Unfortunately, most of the people I know of who grow enough fall cabbage to sell do it because they’re pretty sure of their costumer base, so really good deals are hard to come by. Still, you may be able to score a bulk discount if you buy enough.
- Carrots. Storing carrots is a bit more labor intensive than most of the previously mentioned veggies. The most effective storage method I’ve ever heard of us packing them in buckets or boxes of damp sand. You can see how this could be messy and difficult to find room for if you don’t already have a root cellar. (on the other hand, if you have a garage, it might be perfect!)
- Kale. It’s not a lo g keeper so much as a hardy winter crop. Ours grows all winter long. If you can possibly manage it, I encourage you to grow it for yourself. Kale is both the easiest, and hardiest plant we’ve ever grown.
Eating foods that store well through the winter is a huge step in the direction of eating seasonally, and locally. Something which your health, as well as your local economy and pocketbook will very much appreciate.