Store Garden Produce #5-How to Freeze-Store Squash-Pumpkin Storage


Tis the season for masquerades, tricksters and harvesting before the long winter months ahead. The following tips and techniques below will provide you with growing squashes and pumpkins efficiently.  This is a continuation of Storing Garden Produce for Winter Parts 1-10.  See the link below for the 10 Part Series.

Difference Between Pumpkin and Squash: Even though most people identify squash as a vegetable, they are actually considered fruits due to the seeds within the plant. A pumpkin by any other name is actually a winter squash. All pumpkins, winter and summer squash, and gourds belong to one of four species. Shape, color and stem consistency will usually determine if it is called a pumpkin or a winter squash. A mature pumpkin is a deep, solid orange or white for “ghost” pumpkins and the rind is hard. Squash are usually green, white and green striped, or even a light shade of yellow. Some squash are even blue. A simplified explanation of the differences is people carve a pumpkin; you cook and eat squash, and basically look at gourds. Being related, they share the same growing requirements and all are essentially fall crops.

What is Summer Squash: The main difference between summer and winter squash is that summer squash is eaten as soon as the squash develops. Harvesting summer squash takes place in the immature stages before the rind hardens and the seeds ripen. Summer squash grows on bush-type plants that do not fan out like winter squash and pumpkins. For a full list of summer squash types as well as recipes for squash soup, follow the link below.

Summer squash is a tender, warm-season fruit that can be planted anytime after the dangers of frost has passed, usually from early spring until midsummer. Among the favorites are crookneck summer squash and straight neck, and of course green and yellow zucchini. They are at their best when they are 4-6 inches long. If you pick them young and tender, plenty more will follow. Do not allow summer squash to become too large, hard or seedy however, for they tend to zap the strength from the squash plant that could have otherwise been used to produce even more young fruit. Squash grow rapidly, especially in hot weather so be sure to check your plants every day or so. They are usually ready to be harvested within 4 to 8 days after flowering. As with all squash, fungus and bacteria can easily multiply within bruises, cuts or gouges causing softening and decomposition. Always handle them with care for the stem area is prickly and can scratch and irritate unprotected skin. Use a sharp pruning shears and wear gloves when possible.

Summer squash have both male and female flowers, but only the female produces fruit.  You can easily distinguish the male blossoms from the female. The stem of the male blossom is thin and trim while the stem of the female blossom is very thick. At the base of the female flower, just below the petals is a small bulge, which contains the developing squash. Harvest only the male blossoms unless your goal is to reduce production but always leave a few male blossoms on the vine for pollination purposes. You can gently “fondle” the blossoms to increase pollination…Some gardeners will pick the edible blossoms before the fruit actually develops. They will be somewhat limp, but this is normal. The blossoms of summer squash are a real delicacy when dipped in batter and fried in olive oil.

To store summer squash harvest the squash fresh and place them unwashed in plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. You can also use green produce bags to prolong shelf life. Do not wash the squash until just before consumption. As with most vegetables and fruits, moisture breeds decay during storage. The storage life of fresh summer squash is relatively short, so use within two to three days after harvesting. Summer squash is usually not stored unless for cooking purposes.  To bake summer squash, the seeds can be scooped out or left in. Squash should be salted 15 minutes prior to cooking to remove some of the water content, and then blotted dry. You are able to freeze eggplants, zucchini or other summer squash, if the slices are precooked in butter or olive oil for a few minutes instead of blanching for more flavor and better texture.  Otherwise freezing fresh squash will tend to make the squash mushy when thawed which is therefore only suitable for soups.  Freeze cooked squash or add to recipes, then freeze.  This will likely be the only way to eliminate the mushy texture after it is pulled from the freezer.

Planting winter squash: Growing squash plants will allow you to have fresh vegetables from your garden well into the winter months. Many gardeners will shy away from growing winter squash and pumpkins due to their expansive vines and length of the growing season to maturity. If you have limited space in your garden, winter squash might seem like a luxury. In some climates, the season is too short for decent winter squash production. It pays to look at the days required for ripening because winter squash must be harvested before a serious frost. If it’s not ripe by then, it will never truly ripen off the vine. Fortunately, seed companies are now developing hybrids that either mature on shorter vines or on bushy plants. Some even ripen faster and produce smaller fruits. Regardless, whichever variety you choose to grow, the fruits will need to be fully mature in order to be cooked or kept for storage. More on freezing winter squash as well as drying squash below…

How to Store Squash: Despite their name, winter squash  developed its name only due to their storage throughout the winter months. Mature winter squash store better than immature fruit. Pumpkins are also considered a winter squash. With all winter squash, the flesh is firmer and requires a longer cooking period. All winter squash have a hardy thick skin. When mature, the skins will appear dull and dry and cannot be easily punctured by the thumbnail. If you have to work at it, the squash is ripe; if it is very easy to pierce, the squash is immature. Winter squash grow on a frost tender vine. Unless you are going to immediately consume the squash, fruit should be left attached to the vine until the vine dies from the frost. The age to maturity for an early variety should be 100 days and for a late variety 120 days. Keep in mind that dead vines do not always indicate maturity in winter squash. If the vine dies prematurely from disease or drought, for instance, the fruits are probably immature and therefore will not store successfully. Leave a long stem (handle) on winter squashes to delay decay and to reduce water loss. Always harvest before a heavy frost.

Preserving Squash: Curing heals wounds, helps ripen immature fruit, enhances color, and ensures a longer post-harvest life. For curing, expose the fruit to about 75 degrees with relative humidity of about 75 % for 8-10 days. During the cooler months of September and October, homeowners can cure the fruit by setting them outside on a concrete floor exposing them to indirect sunlight. During the nighttime, the fruit should be brought back indoors. Afterward, cured pumpkins and winter squash can be stored in a cool, moderately moist, ventilated, space at about 50-55 degrees in relative low humidity. Control the humidity since high humilities will promote decay and lower humilities will cause excessive weight loss Place them in a single layer on wooden or plastic shelves; you do not want the condensation that metal shelves produce. Don’t store pumpkins and winter squash next to a furnace or with apples or bananas.  These fruits will promote ethylene gas…explained in part 8 of this series where as, the finance will increase the dehydration of the fruit. Usually deterioration will first appear around the seed cavity. Check the squash regularity to see if any bad spots appear or if they start to feel soft or mushy, then you have stored the squash too long.  Stored this way, both the squash and pumpkins will last for about 3-6 months.

How to Freeze Squash: Due to the high water content of all squashes, as mentioned in Store Garden Produce # 4, fresh frozen squash will become mushy when thawed. In order to keep some texture and consistency, I would recommend cooking squash and pumpkin before freezing. The highest freezing temperature for squash is around 30.9°F. Any lower and it will promote “frost bite” due to amount of water squash contains. Because of their high water content, Squash do best when cooked fresh with dry-heat methods such as stir-fries, grilling or sautéing to avoid the mush factor. Steaming, simmering in a sauce, baking or deep-frying are also perfectly acceptable before freezing. Use with in a 3-month life span for best results.

Before freezing winter squash, know that the skin is inedible. It must be peeled before cooking or eating. The flesh should be scooped out of it after cooking. Winter squash can be roasted, braised, steamed, baked, boiled, microwaved, or simmered before freezing. Use the same techniques to baking fresh pumpkin before freezing as with freezing winter squash. Click the link below for awesome recipes.

A short message about Gourds: Gourds are the inedible fruit of growing squashes. They are mostly used for decoration, vessels for water and storage containers as well as used for musical instruments. Very few gourds are used for consumption. Due to their harder shell, they are mostly used for crafts and that is their reason for being planted along fences, and also to protect the other fruits of the garden by detouring rabbits and squirrels. Gourds should be removed from the vine with some of the stem remaining. Wipe the fruit off with cloth dipped in 1 part Clorox and 9 parts water. Lay the gourds out in indirect sunlight, evenly spaced, so they don’t touch each other to fully cure. Allow about 3-4 weeks to dry completely. Shellac can be added to enhance the color and preserve their beauty for several months.



Fresh Pumpkin Recipe-Recipes for Squash Soup-More Recipes Here!

Follow Kali’s Entire Series on Storing Garden Produce for Winter
Store Garden Produce For Winter-Part 1
Store Garden Produce #2-When To Harvest Garlic & Best Way To Store Herbs
Store Garden Produce #3-How To Dry Mushrooms & Dry Beans Storage
Store Garden Produce #4- How to Store Ripen Tomatoes-Freezing Fresh Tomatoes
Store Garden Produce #5-How to Freeze-Store Squash-Pumpkin Storage
Parts 6-10: Store Garden Produce For Winter

Successful Gardening!
Kali S Winters



Store Garden Produce #4- How to Store Ripen Tomatoes-Freezing Fresh Tomatoes


With winter months soon approaching, you will want to harvest your tomatoes, pumpkins and squash before the first frost appears. The following tips and techniques will help you all summer long but the following methods are for longer storage use so you will be able to enjoy your bounty for many months to come. Part 5 of this series provides tips and techniques on preserving squash and storing pumpkins. This article is not inclusive and should be shared with Parts 1-10 of this series.

How to Store Tomatoes: I would not recommend storing fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator. Besides creating a loss of flavor, the condensation that develops on the skins surface will speed up decomposition. Ripening tomatoes can be stored at no less than 50 F. (45 degree F is recommended for refrigerators.)

Tomatoes are very sensitive to frost. When a light frost first appears, you will want to cover your plants with tarps or light blankets to prolong the harvest. Keep in mind, however that when the colder weather starts permanently setting in, immediately harvest everything and ripen green tomatoes indoors. Tomatoes can show some signs of red, but if picked too green, they may rot. An ideal temperature for storing green tomatoes and for fast ripening is at about 70 F. You can delay ripening for up to a month if green tomatoes are kept in high humidity (75-85%) and near 50 F. See part 2 of this series for additional information on hygrometers. Any temperatures below this and your tomatoes will taste bland or off flavor. Low humidity will also cause tomatoes to shrivel. Refrigerators have low relative humidity levels as well as a recommend temperature setting of 45 F, not very ideal for tomato storage.

In order to provide adequate storage to ripen tomatoes, place a layer of tomatoes in a cardboard or wooden box and cover it with waxed paper. You want to use waxed paper in case some of the tomatoes should “pop” their skins and then ooze upon the tomatoes below, which will speed up decay. You can wrap tomatoes individually with newspaper for extra humidity control. Add an additional layer of tomatoes and then more wax paper. Next, put a cover over the top to keep the light and moisture out. Remove any tomatoes as they ripen.

To speed up the tomato ripening process, place a banana or a couple of apples inside the box close to the tomatoes. The fruit will emit ethylene gas which speeds up tomato ripening. Learn more about ethylene gas in part 8 of this series.

Freezing Fresh Tomatoes: If you have asked the question, “Can you freeze tomatoes?” the answer is yes, you can. It is even possible to quickly freeze fresh tomatoes without blanching them first. You can freeze them with or without their skins. They can be frozen raw or cooked, whole, sliced, chopped or pureed. You can freeze tomato juice, sauce or prepared in any recipe of your choosing. Frozen tomatoes are best used in recipes that are cooked such as soups, sauces and stews as they become mushy when they are thawed. Tomatoes should be seasoned prior to cooking rather that before they are frozen. Freezing tends to either strengthen or weaken seasonings such as herbs and spices, and onions or garlic.

To Freeze Tomatoes Whole, select the ones that are firm and ripe. Discard any spoiled tomatoes. Wash, then pat dry with a clean paper towel or cloth. Next, cut away the stem then place the tomatoes on a flat cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to thick freezer bags or other containers. When you are ready to use your frozen tomatoes, run the tomatoes under warm water. The skin will just slip off easily. If you prefer to freeze your tomatoes without the skins, blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for about a minute or until you see the skins split. Cool slightly in ice water to stop the cooking process, then peal the skins off and freeze them as mentioned above. Stored in the freezer at about 0 degrees, your tomatoes will last for about 8 months.

Freezing Stewed Tomatoes: If you would like to prepare stewed tomatoes to add to soups or stews, you will want to first place the washed tomatoes on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for about 3 minutes (depending upon your oven) or until you see the skins split. Next, core, peel and quarter the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and optional spices such as oregano, garlic, onion, and pepper to a pan. Cover and simmer on low heat until tender for about 10-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not let the bottom scorch. Cool the tomatoes by placing the cooking pan in a sink or larger container of cold water, stirring often. Pack the cooled tomatoes into freezer containers, leaving a 1-inch gap for expansion. Seal tightly and freeze. I add my seasonings before I freeze stewed tomatoes since I prefer my stewed tomatoes strong in flavor.

Freeze Tomato Juice: Cut your washed tomatoes into quarters or eighths. Place the tomatoes in a pan and heat rapidly to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Tomatoes are prone to scorching to watch them closely. Cool the tomatoes. Press the mixture through a sieve, cheesecloth or food mill to separate the pulp from the skin and seeds. Pour the juice into containers, leaving a 1-inch gap for expansion. If desired, you can add 1/2 tsp of salt for flavor to each quart of juice. Seal and freeze.

Make Sun Dried Tomatoes at Home: If you live in a climate with low humidity of less than 60% and daily consistent temperatures of at least 90F, you may just possibly be able to sun dry your own tomatoes at home. If not, I have provided instructions on drying tomatoes in the dehydrator below. Recipes Using Sun Dried Tomatoes.

To try your hand at making your own sun dried tomatoes, you will first need a clean wooden or plastic drying tray. I use an old screen window to dry my tomatoes. Do not use anything galvanized due to the acid within the tomatoes causing a chemical reaction. Place your washed, cored and sliced tomatoes about ½ to an inch apart with the cut side up. Do not stack your trays, you will want plenty of airflow all the way around. Next, cover the tomatoes with a fine netting or cheesecloth to keep the bugs away. The netting or cheesecloth must be raised above the trays so they do not touch the tomatoes themselves. Flip your tomatoes on the trays at least once a day for even drying.

After an initial drying period when the tomatoes are becoming tough, you are able to then sting your tomatoes on heavy thread to hang them to dry in the sun, sort of like using a cloths line. Make sure to place the netting or cheesecloth over the top and secure the bottom to stop any insect invasion. If the temperature at night drops 20F below the daytime temperature, you will want to bring the tomatoes inside to place in a dry area at night, otherwise the tomatoes will reabsorb moisture again, which defeats your purpose. It usually takes about a week to completely sun-dry tomatoes properly. Of course it all depends upon the air temperature and the size and type of the tomatoes you are drying. Tomatoes are thoroughly dried when you can touch them and you do not see any juices. They should be “leathery” but not brittle. If you have found that insects have invaded your tomatoes, place the tomatoes in the freezer for about 48 hours. Another way to stop the insect invasion is to place the dried tomatoes on a cookie sheet and heat them in an oven for about 30 minutes at 160F. Do not over dry the tomatoes. There is a fine line.

Drying Tomatoes in Dehydrator: Most electric dehydrators are equipped with a thermostat and a blower fan to maintain a consistent even temperature. If your dehydrator does not have a thermostat, you can place a cooking thermometer on a bottom tray.

Heat your dehydrator to 135-145 degree F. Place your washed, cored and sliced tomatoes on the trays, leaving about a 1-2 inch gap between them. You may need to turn your tomatoes over as well as rotate the trays during the drying process to maintain even drying. Dehydrating tomatoes usually takes about 10-16 hours, depending upon the thickness of the tomato slices and the dehydrator itself. Towards the end of the drying cycle, watch the tomatoes for any signs of scorching. Remove individual tomatoes when they are finished.

Drying tomatoes in the oven is possible but because tomatoes can take up to 40 hours to adequately dry, I would not recommend it. Besides heating up the kitchen, it also causes the oven to be unavailable for other uses. If you do want to pursue this method of drying, place the tomato slices on wire racks on top of cookie sheets to catch any juices. Turn them often and place the temperature at about 150-degree F. Drying tomatoes in the microwave I would definitely not recommend. The microwave does not heat evenly, nor does it allow for air circulation. The microwave will actually cook the tomatoes rather than dry them…

After your tomatoes are completely dried…and I do mean completely, store them in thick plastic, zip lock bags, airtight jars or other suitable container. Pack the tomatoes tightly and squeeze out any excess air. Store them in a cool dry place. You may even want to place an oxygen absorbent packet inside the container as described in part 3 of this series. Storing them this way will preserve the color, flavor, aroma and nutritional value for about a year. Storing the dried tomatoes in the freezer wrapped in plastic coated freezer paper will prolong shelf life even longer.

Re-hydrating dried tomatoes: You are able to re-hydrate dried tomatoes in a variety of ways. You can add them directly to soups and stews or soak them in water, wine, bouillon or vegetable juice. They usually re-hydrate within 1-2 hours. If you soak them for more than 2 hours or overnight, you should refrigerate them. Using boiled liquid from your recipe will shorten the soaking time. The liquid can them be added back to your recipe since it contains lots of vitamins.

Tomato flakes and powers: To produce flakes or powder from dried tomatoes, dry them beyond the “leathery” stage to a more brittle consistency. Tomato flakes can be made by pounding the dehydrated tomatoes with a mallet or by crushing them with a rolling pin. Powders are finer than flakes and you can make them using a food processor or blender. Dried tomato flakes and powders can be added to soups, stews and other foods for color and flavoring.



Follow Kali’s Entire Series on Storing Garden Produce for Winter
Store Garden Produce For Winter-Part 1
Store Garden Produce #2-When To Harvest Garlic & Best Way To Store Herbs
Store Garden Produce #3-How To Dry Mushrooms & Dry Beans Storage
Store Garden Produce #4- How to Store Ripen Tomatoes-Freezing Fresh Tomatoes
Store Garden Produce #5-How to Freeze-Store Squash-Pumpkin Storage
Parts 6-10: Store Garden Produce For Winter

Recipe- Sun Dried Tomatoes And Pasta!

Learn How to Start a Vegetable Garden & Grow Big Juicy Tomatoes-
2 Free Bonus Books Here!

Successful Gardening!
Kali S Winters



Store Garden Produce #3-How To Dry Mushrooms & Dry Beans Storage


During my 30 + years of gardening experience, I have encountered many situations where I have had to improvise in order to adjust to the changes within our environment to accommodate my plants needs. I have adjusted and learned so much and would like to share my experience and success, as well as my “mishaps” along the way. This article is not inclusive and should be shared with Parts 1 & 2 of this series.

Dry Beans Storage: Beans can be stored in moisture-resistant, air-tight containers. With proper preparation before storage, they can last up to 30 years. Dried beans are best stored without the presence of oxygen and light. Oxygen will cause the oil produced from the beans to become rancid. Light will quickly discolor the beans. Neither is compatible with long-term storage. Furthermore, colder storage temperatures as well as low humidity will enhance and prolong shelf life.

Beans stored in food grade, polyethylene bags have about a one-year life span. This situation is commonly found in most commercialized products and is not a suitable storage containment option over the long term.

Canning dry beans without pressure: I first make sure that the inside of the jars are washed and thoroughly dried. Remember- moisture breeds decay- quickly. Oxygen absorbent packets should be added to the jars to remove oxygen and to extend shelf life.

Fill the jars about 95% full and make sure that the gasket on the lid is in good condition. Close the jar tightly then store in a cool, dry, dark place. Note: Oxygen absorber packets should be kept in a sealed container until ready for use. Only remove as needed within a 20 to 30 minute time frame.

If you are using plastic buckets, first place one ounce of dry ice per gallon in the bottom of the bucket. Pour the beans over the dry ice to within one inch of the top. Place the lid on the bucket but do not completely seal it until the dry ice has dispersed. When the bottom of the bucket begins to feel warmer, place the lid on tightly. If it begins to bulge after a few minutes, open slightly to release the pressure. Watch to make sure the pressure has subsided-this might take several days for accuracy. As a precaution-do not stack your buckets more than three high as the weight could damage the lower containers.

How to freeze beans: Frozen dried beans will only last for about 2-3 months. As a general rule of thumb, for every pound or 2 cups of dried beans, use 6 cups of water to re-hydrate. Pour the appropriate amount of beans and water into a large cooking pot. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp of oil and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil then cover the pot and allow it to simmer. Always make sure that the beans are completely covered by adding additional hot water when needed. The amount of cooking time will vary with the type of bean cooked. This could be as little as 30 minutes up to 3 hours. The beans are finished when they are just about tender, but not quite. If you completely cook the beans and then freeze them, they tend to loose their shape and texture when de-thawed. Allow the beans to completely cool at room temperature before placing them in the freezer.

Next, fill your airtight, moisture resistant container to within 1 inch from the top then cover the beans the rest of the way with water. For easier thawing, freeze the beans in smaller portions.

Mushrooms Storage: Choose mushrooms that show an even color and firm texture throughout. Also select the ones where the caps are tightly closed. If any part of the gill is showing, that is a sure sign of age. Discolored and damaged mushrooms with soft spots should be removed from storage. Avoid using mushrooms that have become slimy.

Do not store mushrooms on the countertop. They should be kept cool. Allowing mushrooms to warm at room temperature will shorten their life span. Additionally, avoid rinsing or cutting the mushrooms until ready for use.

Mushrooms bought from the market are pre-packaged within a carton that is wrapped with a plastic seal. They are most likely to last about 3-4 days if kept cool. In order to preserve your mushrooms longer and keep them fresh in the refrigerator, not in the crisper, the mushrooms should be transferred to a brown paper bag; lunch bags work best, separating them from each other with paper toweling. Do not wrap the mushrooms completely; you just do not want them touching each other, which will create the slimy effect. The paper will also absorb any moisture and will provide venting for prolonged shelf life. You can also place the mushrooms wrapped in the fashion above into a stay fresh green garden bag. Kept this way as well as in paper bags, most mushrooms can last between a week to nine days.

Canned mushrooms and oiled mushrooms marinating in jars have a much longer shelf life, and are good for specific recipes, however, they do lack the flair that fresh mushrooms add.

To Freeze Mushrooms: Wash the mushrooms. Freeze the small mushrooms whole and cut the larger ones into 4 or more pieces. Blanch the mushrooms in 1 Tbsp lemon juice per one quart of water to prevent the mushrooms from browning. Blanch the medium or small whole mushrooms for 5 minutes and the cut pieces for 3 minutes. Immediately chill them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Pack them tightly in ridged, airtight containers allowing a ½ inch gap at the top for expansion.

How to Dry Mushrooms: When you are drying mushrooms, you are actually removing all the moisture from the mushrooms itself. Moisture breeds decay. The following drying method can be applied to Button, Moral, as well as my favorite mushrooms, Portobello’s. Drying time usually takes about 8-12 hours.

The best way to dry mushrooms is in a food dehydrator at 110 degrees. If a dehydrator is not available, a convection oven set at 100 degrees will suffice. A regular or conventional oven is not recommended for it tends to cook the mushrooms instead of just drying them. On a really hot summer day, you can also string your sliced mushrooms with heavy thread allowing enough air space between them and hang them in the sun. Then transfer the stringed mushrooms to a dry, warm place with good air circulation to finish the job of evaporating the moisture within. If drying mushrooms in the winter, place the sliced mushrooms on a screen over or near a wood stove, water heater or other warm dry places.

The smaller the slices or mushrooms, if drying them whole, the shorter time it will take for drying. If you are inclined to wash your mushrooms before drying which I would not recommend, just rinse them quickly under the faucet. You do not want them wet before drying. You can use a mushroom brush or a damp cloth to gently remove any dirt that may be clinging to the skin.

When I am drying button mushrooms, I usually like to dry the smallest ones whole with out slicing them up. I like the small ones bobbing in my soup or stew recipes. The buttons act like a sponge and absorbs all the rich flavors of the recipe and tastes absolutely yummy. For the larger buttons, I slice them in about 1/8 inch pieces either through the stem or sometimes I slice the stems in round 1/8 inch pieces. Dehydrate for about 8 hours, longer if you are drying them whole. Mushrooms do get tough and leathery when properly dried; in fact some button mushrooms will become quite brittle after drying if left unattended too long. I am guilty of that from time to time. I will then use those mushrooms for powered seasoning on vegetables or meat dishes to add extra flavor.

As far as how to dry moral mushrooms, I prefer to dry my moral’s whole in the dehydrator. You can slice them just as you would with the button mushrooms as well. Do not rinse morels; just dust them as best as you can before drying. Add a couple of hours to the drying time, if you are drying them whole.

I love the “meatier” nature of portabella mushrooms and will cube them in ½ inch pieces. They will take extra drying time-upward to 12 hours, sometimes longer. Keep checking them towards the end of the drying period so they don’t end up as powder.

Dried mushrooms should be soaked in hot water or your recipe cooking liquid for about an hour prior to use. You will want the debris from the soaking mushrooms to float to the bottom, strain, and then use the liquid to add to your favorite recipe for additional flavoring.

The best way to store mushrooms is to place the dehydrated mushrooms in clean canning jars with rubber seals in a cool, dry place. You can also use rigid airtight plastic containers but only if you add oxygen absorbent packets, as mentioned above with the beans, to the jars/containers to remove moisture and to extend shelf life. I would not recommend using zip lock storage bags. They will trap moisture and cause the mushrooms to rot.



Follow Kali’s Entire Series on Storing Garden Produce for Winter
Store Garden Produce For Winter-Part 1
Store Garden Produce #2-When To Harvest Garlic & Best Way To Store Herbs
Store Garden Produce #3-How To Dry Mushrooms & Dry Beans Storage
Store Garden Produce #4- How to Store Ripen Tomatoes-Freezing Fresh Tomatoes
Store Garden Produce #5-How to Freeze-Store Squash-Pumpkin Storage
Parts 6-10: Store Garden Produce For Winter

Learn How To Harvest And Dry Herbs Here!

Successful Gardening!
Kali S Winters



Store Garden Produce #2-When To Harvest Garlic & Best Way To Store Herbs


September in old English terms means “harvest month” and just like the name predicts, there is plenty of leftover bounty to store garden produce for the upcoming winter months ahead. This article should be read in conjunction with Parts 1 of 10 of this series. (See Below)

When to Harvest Garlic or Onions: These two are my most sought after commodities in the garden. Even though you are planting onions and garlic separately, they are harvested and stored in similar fashion. That is why I have combined the two.

When are onions and garlic ready to harvest you ask? Well, you will want to wait to harvest your garlic or onion bulbs until half of the tops are green and the other half is yellow or browned. This will indicate that the bulbs are mature enough and ready for storage. Pluck them from the garden and lay them out of the way of direct sunlight to dry for several days, with the tops still attached. Onions require about a 3-7 day warm drying period.

After drying, gently rub the bulbs with a towel or cloth to remove any loose dirt. Do not wash the dirt off the skins with water, that only adds moisture and moisture encourages bacteria growth. Next, trim the roots back closest to the bulbs. Do not remove the protected, dry skins. You will then want to trim the tops to about 1-3 inches and then use the tops to braid the garlic together to hang for storage. (The same can be done with baby onions; large onions are too heavy to sustain the weight.) If you do not want to braid, (understandable–it does require practice), place the bulbs in brown paper bags and store in a cool, dry place — 40-55 degree F, with a relative humidity level of 50-60 percent. You will notice that when both of the onions and garlic have cured, the dry, outer skins will start flaking. (Keeping garlic in warm dry conditions for 3-6 weeks will fully cure them.) Garlic will keep for about 6 to 7 months while onions up to 8 months.

Note: Do not store your garlic or onions in the refrigerator or around the stove. If you take notice of the produce section at the grocery store, you will find that onions, garlic, tomatoes and potatoes are all displayed in center isles, away from the refrigerated section. Why then, do some people pack their produce home in the plastic bags provided, especially the potatoes and tomatoes, and store them in the fridge? A lot can be learned by observing how grocery stores section off their produce department. Look at several stores to compare.

Best Way To Store Herbs and Spices: Dried herbs and spices should never be kept above or near your stove. The heat and steam from cooking will cause them to loose their oils and retard flavors. Store your herbs and spices in a cool dry place and preferably in a dark glass bottle. Using clear plastic containers like commercialized products will allow you to see the contents within, but it will also expose the dried herbs and spices to too much light and will cause the oils to be absorbed into the plastic itself. This is not good if you want to maintain the quality of your dried herbs and spices. When buying your herbs from the market, either tape dark colored paper around the container or transfer them to dark colored glass bottles.

Fresh vs dried herbs: To dry herbs at home, remove any foliage from the base of the stems and then bunch 6-12 stems together and fasten with a string or twine. Hang the bundle, away from sunlight, in a cool dry place. I use several, circular, old metal lamp shade frames to hang my herbs. To dry individual leaves, place them on herb drying racks or screens for a good airing. Turn them often so they dry evenly. In the beginning, I used window screens to dry my herbs in the shed. Years later they came out with the herb drying racks which I have found to be wonderful.

Other methods have been used in the past such as drying herbs in dehydrator, oven drying herbs or drying herbs in microwave but have usually produced unsatisfactory results. The heat from the appliance dries the herb too rapidly so the herbs end up loosing their natural oils. After purchasing enough machinery in my lifetime to dry my herbs easier, I have come to only one conclusion: The old fashion way works the best!

A medium can also be used to preserve fresh herbs as well. White vinegar for instance can be used as a cover on mint, tarragon or basil. Using this method will preserve the fresh herbs for several months. To make a flavored salt as well as preserving your herbs at the same time, alternate layers of fresh herbs between layers of salt while drying. The salt draws the moisture and flavors from the herb. You do not want to do this with all your herbs, sometimes the salt will pull too much flavor out of the herb, of course, how much salt do you really need?  Once completely dried, separate the brown herb from the flavored salt and store both separately in airtight, dark containers. Note: with this method, I purchased a bunch of old, light weight, aluminum windows that they used to call storm windows and placed the layering material on top….guess I am showing my age here!

Storing Herbs in the Fridge: Most fresh herbs and spices will keep for short periods of time in the refrigerator as long as they are not washed and are placed in tightly sealed plastic baggies that allows a slight amount of moisture within the bag to prevent wilting. Remember, wet herbs will mold and rot. If you would like to store your fresh herbs longer without drying them, place them unwashed in a specially designed green garden bag. Other plastics will cut off the oxygen and will therefore, promote spoilage.

Freeze Dry Herbs: A fairly simple method of preserving fresh herbs is to freeze them. First dip your herbs in a bowl full of water to clean them. Gently air and pat them dry with a paper towel. *Never run fresh herbs directly under the faucet—it will damage the herb. Next, cut the fresh herb into about 1/4 inch pieces and lay them on a flat cookie sheet lined with waxed paper; then place the sheet in the freezer. After they are frozen, bunch them together in freezer bags and return them to the freezer for use at a later date. Remove these herbs from the freezer at the very last minute to add to your recipe. Do not let them unthaw or they will end up loosing their potency and becoming soggy. If needed, chop them up further while they are still frozen and quickly add to your cooked recipe.

There is also the ice cube method to freeze dry herbs. Once again, clean and cut up your fresh herbs into 1/4 inch pieces and place them in large ice cube trays. Pour water, chicken or vegetable stock or another base, (cooled to room temperature-or you will end up cooking the herb), to barely cover just the tops of the herbs and pop the ice cube tray into the freezer. Once frozen, pop them out of the cube holder and place them into thick freezer bags. For longer storage, use freezer wrap to surround the freezer bag.

By using this method, you will be able to mix and match your basil, oregano, cilantro etc. into one ice cubical. Then when you are making soups or stews, just plop the whole ice cube into the pot. Whala! Fresh instant seasoning! You can also store your left over stock or bases this way as well. However…a word of warning: Do not put dried/dehydrated mushrooms or onions in the cube holders with the herb and spice mix. They will expand in water before the ice sets leaving quite a mess to clean up….That one was for my kid sister who made this mistake so I thought I would mention it. Sorry sis..!

Until next time!

Successful Gardening!
Kali S Winters



Follow Kali’s Entire Series on Storing Garden Produce for Winter
Store Garden Produce For Winter-Part 1
Store Garden Produce #2-When To Harvest Garlic & Best Way To Store Herbs
Store Garden Produce #3-How To Dry Mushrooms & Dry Beans Storage
Store Garden Produce #4- How to Store Ripen Tomatoes-Freezing Fresh Tomatoes
Store Garden Produce #5-How to Freeze-Store Squash-Pumpkin Storage
Parts 6-10: Store Garden Produce For Winter

Other Articles Of Interest:
Harvesting and Drying Herbs
Fall Vegetable Gardening
ReVisit Your Local Farmers Market
Wild Food Recipes



Store Garden Produce For Winter-Part 1


There are so many newcomers to the area of gardening these days. It just seems like all of us are developing an awareness of obtaining a more self-sufficient lifestyle in one form or another. Well, my self-sufficient lifestyle started well over 30 + years ago.

When I first began to garden, I didn’t have a clue about canning, drying or freezing. During the summer months, I just plucked the food out of the garden and used it right there and then. The biggest problem I had was storing the over-abundance for later use. I ended up giving half of my first year crop away because I did not know how to preserve it. I could only handle just so much information at one time. Sound familiar? Well with that in mind, I would like to share with you some tips and techniques that I have learned throughout my gardening years.

If you do not have a root cellar, do not worry. The following tips and techniques will help you preserve your harvest for longer periods of time:

First of all, always harvest in the morning after the dew has evaporated and before the sun starts to heat the garden. Your produce is more likely to be at their coolest and be ready for handling. Remember that their quality deteriorates rapidly after harvest, so you will want to keep fresh produce out of direct sunlight and cook, process, or pack it away in the proper storage conditions as readily as possible.

Make sure to handle your food with care. Even the slightest bruising or cuts will speed up decomposition and will transfer it to other produce. Remember the old saying, “one bad apple will spoil the whole barrel.” Well that is true with all produce. Additionally, if you are going to store items for long periods, removing the stems could possibly open a “wound” so try to leave the stems intact until ready to be eaten.

Never store food that is over ripe, consume it right away. Always store the food at its peak, preferable right after harvest. A few vegetables, such as the potatoes, squashes, onions as well as garlic, will need to be “cured” for several days in a warm dry setting prior to going into cold storage.

Pack your garden produce in something other than plastic, such as in mesh, brown paper bags or in cardboard or wooden boxes. This will maintain reduced humidity levels. Shake off the loose dirt rather than washing it for longer storage because moisture tends to encourage bacteria growth. Besides, a little dry dirt will not be a storage problem however, always do an inspection for pests. If you really must wash the produce before storage, make sure to dry them thoroughly before packing them away. When you are ready to eat your bounty and have retrieved them from cold storage, do not let your bounty sit in a sink full of water for washing. The bacteria or chemicals to clean the sink as well as the detergent in dish soap will cling to the “skins”. Always wash under running water.

When storing, again try not to use plastic containers, they do not allow the produce to breath and will trap ethylene gas as the produce ripens. Beans are an exception-they will not emit gases. A good quality, breathable, green garden bag will absorb and remove these gases and is safe for storage.

Remember that hot air rises so the coolest, most humid areas are on the floor or near entries. The driest and warmest areas are towards the ceiling. It might be wise to purchase a hygrometer (they measure temperatures as well as humidity). Try to maintain a temperature between 50 – 60 degrees F and a relative humidity level of 80-90 percent. Check your produce and hygrometer regularly and adjust or remove any damaged crops accordingly.

Vegetable that are piled together will generate heat. You will want to place some of the crops on shelves while others can be placed on the floor–always rotate or “air” your crops accordingly. Some crops such as potatoes, apples or pears can be covered in straw or individually wrapped in newspapers to retard the release of ethylene gas.

It would be wise to store cabbage or turnips away from other produce or in a root barrel (more on that in another segment). Their unpleasant odor has been known to permeate an entire dwelling.

Do not store potatoes, berries or fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator. The condensation that develops on the skins surface will speed up decomposition. 50 degree F is recommended for storage. (45 degree F is recommended for refrigerators.)

Never store your produce in the garage. Just think about the chemicals or the gasoline and oil that might be stored there. Additionally, when parking your vehicle after use, it still emits fumes and exhaust. That will be absorbed into your food…Yuk!

Whether you grow produce in your own backyard garden or have taken advantage of the abundance and lower prices at your local Farmers Market, I hope these tips and techniques will help you sustain your bounty for months to come.

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Discover more about Harvesting and Drying Herbs Here!

Successful Gardening!

Kali S Winters

Follow Kali’s Entire Series on Storing Garden Produce for Winter
Store Garden Produce For Winter-Part 1
Store Garden Produce #2-When To Harvest Garlic & Best Way To Store Herbs
Store Garden Produce #3-How To Dry Mushrooms & Dry Beans Storage
Store Garden Produce #4- How to Store Ripen Tomatoes-Freezing Fresh Tomatoes
Store Garden Produce #5-How to Freeze-Store Squash-Pumpkin Storage
Parts 6-10: Store Garden Produce For Winter