Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Long Live the Fall Vegetable

Late fall harvests in the northeast include some of winter’s favorite keepers.  Most of the season I’ll have to get my winter squashes and root vegetables from the supermarket, driven in from a warmer climate.  But while I can, I am gathering a supply of local vegetables.  By Thanksgiving, many farmers markets will close down. Before they do, stop by one last time to gather up a bevy of vegetables that will keep long term in cool storage.  Some vendors sell the end of their harvest by the bushel so you can eat pure and save a penny too.

The photos here show a representative sampling of the cornucopia I’m storing this year.  Acorn squash and cooking pumpkins will get roasted into side dishes with a bit of butter and maple syrup or put into a soup with the Northern Spye and Stayman Winesap apples in storage. Northern Spye are particularly good keepers and are terrific baked in pies. I was surprised to learn from the experts at Hopkins Farms in Pennsylvania  that butternut squash would also keep well, but I will probably go these first.  Likewise, I was pleased to learn from that the Brussels sprouts I bought would hold well too provided I kept the individual sprouts on the stalk until use.  Potatoes, onions and beets will also go into cool storage, separated from each other. 
Dampness is the enemy.  Hopkins Farms advises its customers to place the vegetables in an open weave basket or plastic milk crates.  Then find a cool, dry spot in your house.  Houses used to have root cellars where cool crops were stored in crates or a mound of dirt.  Unheated garages, unfinished (not damp!) basements, a closed-in porch and even a dark corner of an unused (and unheated) spare bedroom are suitable today.  Move the vegetables when guests arrive and the heat comes on. 

Check your horde over every once in a while to ensure no mold is growing and by all means, use this wonderful bounty.  Plan to pull something from the collection to use in a few meals each week.