There are several reasons why we grow the things we do. Certainly, if we like a particular vegetable or flower, that is what we want to grow. Of course, other practical considerations in regard to the size of your garden and full sun available might also effect some of your decisions.
From my experience, it seems some vegetables do better for me than others. I have always done well with the root crops I plant. Potatoes, carrots, and onions are vegetables that we enjoy and also use through out the year. Another big plus in growing a quantity of these veggies is the ease of storage necessary to keep them for many months. Any type of root cellar or cool basement area is enough to provide good storage for most root crops.
Root cellars were common to most every household many years ago. A proper root cellar would provide the necessary temperature and humidity to keep many fruit and vegetables viable through the winter. Most of our grandparents had a way to store a lot of their produce in some type of basement or outbuilding that would keep a cold but not freezing environment for much of their produce.
I recall my grandparents had a constructed root cellar that was like a cave. It was partially below ground with soil on top of it to insulate it and keep it a cool temperature year around. I remember the apples would be pretty shriveled up by spring time but they were still good to eat. I suppose many of these shriveled apples were made into pies and other deserts where they were rehydrated. It was always a bit of an adventure when I was young and a cousin and I would venture into the root cellar that was illuminated only by a low wattage overhead bulb.
Root cellars are pretty much a thing of the past now, as most of us get our vegetables from the grocery store. Unfortunately, produce at the supermarket tends to be brought in from long distance where it is grown for its ability to endure over time rather then for its taste and freshness. Also, there is little regard when it comes to the vitamin and mineral content of these vegetables. Add to that the liberal use of chemicals on these vegetables and you have even more reason to grow your own.
For our household, being able to easily store onions, carrots, and potatoes helps to ensure having homegrown veggies in our diet for most of the year. All vegetables can be kept for long periods of time by canning, dehydrating or freezing, but these processes take a certain amount of time and equipment. If you have access to cold storage, this is a simple way to extend your access to the garden harvest.
We can generally keep nearly a year’s supply of our carrots in the refrigerator and they do very well. Our onions will keep on an unheated back porch for most of a year. Of course when it comes to onions, you must plant the more pungent, long storage variety to have the real keepers. Different varieties of potatoes store better than other types also. Since we have our wood stove in the basement, it is not ideal to store them down there, but we are able to keep them through most of the winter. When it comes to storing carrots, I have never noticed any difference in any type storing better than any other.
Root vegetables are an excellent food source for a number of reasons. Since they are a complex carbohydrate, they aid the body in providing energy and help with the metabolism. The high fiber content of these vegetables aids in digestion and helps balance glucose in the body. They are also high in many nutrients such as vitamins A and C., as well as being an antioxidant.
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Some root vegetables tend to have a high chemical residue if they are purchased from commercial growers. The potato is one of these vegetables. By growing your own and being able to eat them for many months, you eliminate additional chemicals in your food.
So whether you like parsnips, beets or rutabagas, or perhaps garlic, yams or horseradish, try to grow your own and find out how easy it might be to store these vegetables. Don’t grow them for the ease of storage, but rather for the taste and nutrition. This is just one more way to extend your garden eating beyond the summer and into and through the winter.