Good Life

Over the Garden Fence | Know what plays well together to avoid off flavors in stored vegetables

I know some of you are thinking of storing some of your vegetables for future use this winter. A few tips may be appropriate to help ensure you are successful in your storage.

Successful storage of vegetables depends not only on the storage conditions, especially the proper temperature and relative humidity, but also on the conditions under which the vegetables were grown and handled prior to storage.

In addition, many different products emit gaseous substances while in storage, some of which can cause changes in color, texture and flavor of other vegetables. It is important to know which vegetables to store together to avoid problems in your storage or root cellar.

Ethylene is one of the main gaseous substances given off. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, muskmelon and tomatoes produce significant quantities of ethylene.

This gas can cause premature ripening of the fruit. Ethylene gas is used to ripen green tomatoes in commercial storage. It also can cause a loss of green color in leafy vegetables, peppers, cucumbers and squash, and the formation of a bitter compound in carrots.

Do not store apples with potatoes, as the ethylene given off by the apples will cause the potatoes to sprout. Also, potatoes may cause apples to take on a musty flavor.

The cole crops (cabbage, rutabaga, turnips) may give strong odors to other crops. Celery also has been known to impart off-flavors. Onions seldom are stored with other crops because of odor transfer. Think of the time when you put the unused half of an onion in your refrigerator without putting it in a tightly sealed container.

Root crops may cause off-flavors in fruits and leafy vegetables if they are held in the same room. The off-flavor is usually called “earthy.” This is an inaccurate term, as the off-flavor seems to come from the root crop itself and not the soil. For example, apples, which take up odors very rapidly, may be kept in areas with earth floors without picking up undesirable odors.

In summary, avoid the following storage combinations whenever possible:

• Celery with onion or carrots

• Root crops with fruit or leafy vegetables

• Apples or pears with cabbage, celery, lettuce or other green vegetables, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes or onions.

The storage time for vegetables ranges from two months for tomatoes to seven months for onions, with beets around the middle at four months.

It is important to think about what crop to store with another so your vegetables and fruits will be of high quality when you go to consume them during the winter months.