Storing and Preserving your Harvest


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Harvesting is such a satisfying time when growers can be rewarded with efforts put into growing their crops. Therefore, it is important to consider storing appropriately in order to keep them for as long as possible at their best.

After a successful harvest, we may find there is surplus fruit and vegetables which need preserving in order to prevent from spoiling and enabling us to enjoy for months to come.


Many summer fruit and vegetables can be preserved using the methods detailed below. However, onions, potatoes and root vegetables are best stored in the ground or dark, dry and airy places. Hardy root vegetables such as celeriac, parsnips etc. can be left in the soil and simply covered with a layer of straw, fleece, or hessian sacking over the winter months.

Beetroot, swedes, carrots, and turnips should be stored over-winter, in boxes of sand or peat and left in cool dark sheds or garage. It is important that these places are dark, dry and cold but not freezing to ensure they are still safe to eat.

Typical shelf life when using this method:

  • Onions: 1 to 2 months in the summer; 6 months in the winter
  • Carrots: 4 to 8 weeks depending on the variety.
  • Potatoes: 1 to 2 weeks at room temperature; 2 to 3 months if kept in a cool, dark place.
  • Beeroot: 4 to 8 weeks; Make sure to cut off the tops to prevent them from drawing out any nutrients and moisture from the vegetables.
  • Cabbage: 2 months when wrapped in plastic and stored properly.
  • Butternut Squash: 2 to 3 months when kept cool and dry.


There are also a variety of other methods to use when preserving the food that you grow in your garden.


This is a simple and quick method, which allows for preserving smaller amounts. It often also is a way that means the food maintains its true flavour, colours and appearance. However, it does require a reliance on electricity and has an associated cost.

Most fruits and vegetables freeze well, remember though that the sooner you freeze them, the better they’ll taste. Use wax-paper, plastic containers or freezable glass jars which seal properly and prevent food ruining.

It is suggested to “blanch” vegetables prior to freezing them to stop enzyme activity and prevent spoilage. Blanching is essentially a mini-pasturization process you can do at home by boiling the vegetables in water (with a dash of salt, if desired) for a few minutes.

Don’t forget that you can also make delicious recipes from your fresh produce and then freeze for ready-made meals. Consider recipes such as spinach and courgette soup, garlic roasted tomatoes or vegetable pasta.

Typical shelf life when using this method:

Both fruits and vegetables will typically last around 3 months in the average home freezer before freezer burn starts set in and ruin the taste of your food.


A great reason to choose canning for your own home-grown food is that you can enjoy it years after you harvest. This method involves boiling, cooling and storing fruits or vegetables in airtight containers, typically made of glass.

There are 3 methods used for canning:

One is the pressure canning method, that requires special equipment to achieve temperatures above 212° F (100° C) in order to kill off and effectively prevent any bacterial growth in most vegetables and other foods that are low in acid. High acid foods, such as fruits, are much easier to can.

An alternative involves packing a canning jar with the desired fruits, leaving an inch of space at the top for expansion and placing the jar in a pot of water to boil anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on your altitude.

Use spoon to remove any air bubbles from inside the edge of the jar to ensure that it seals airtight and close it up tight with a threaded lid.

Another method of canning and preserving your home-grown vegetables is pickling, sometimes called salting. Pickling your vegetables typically involves using salt and/or vinegar as a preservative.

Irrespective of which method you choose, make sure you sterilize your jars before use.

You can either use sterilizing tablets or place the jars, along with their lids, in the oven using the lowest temperature for about 30-45 minutes to kill any bacteria.

Typical shelf life when using this method:

Both fruits and vegetables will last a maximum of 5 years with proper canning storage.


Using drying or dehydrating as a form of preservation can mean that food lasts for years rather than months. All fruit and vegetables can be dehydrated, as can meat. Considering dehydrated food has no water content, the chances of bacteria, yeast, or mould growing is minimal. However, it should be noted that dehydrating food changes its texture and flavour, making food crunchier and dry.

People tend to use a dehydrator or oven to dry out food. It is a long process though and you will need to You will need to plan for approximately 6-10 hours, depending on the amount of moisture in the food you are drying.

If using an oven, it’s important to have the oven at the lowest temperatures possible. Ideally, you’ll want a temperature anywhere from 120° F to 145° F (~49-63° C) to dry your food properly. However, since most ovens don’t have options for temperatures under 200° F (~93° C), a good option is leaving the oven door open to achieve cooler temperatures. The open door will also allow the air to circulate and the evaporated moisture to escape.

Typical shelf life when using this method:

  • Fruits can last up to 5 years when dehydrated.
  • Vegetables can last up to 10 years when properly dehydrated.

A few final tips:

  • Consider health and hygiene, clean and sterilise containers when necessary.
  • Preserve food as soon as possible after harvesting.
  • Avoid using damaged or over ripe food.
  • Label your stored items so you can remember what you have preserved.
  • If, when opened, the jars smell musty or look slimy and mushy it is likely that contents are no longer edible.

If growing larger amounts of crops or those such as wheat – see the PFAA blueprint for detailed storage suggestions.

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