This section is from the book "Save It For Winter.", by Frederick Fry Rockwell. Also available from Amazon: Save It For Winter; Modern Methods Of Canning, Dehydrating, Preserving And Storing Vegetables And Fruit For Winter Use, With Comments On The Best ... For Saving, And When And How To Grow Them.
There are three things essential to make the winter storage of vegetables or fruits successful. First, a product that is perfect, sound and not overripe; Second, good storage conditions; Third, conditions adapted to the product to be kept.
Important as it is to use only perfect vegetables or fruits for canning or drying, it is even more so to have only perfect specimens for storing. The product should be sorted and graded, most carefully. Specimens that are more mature or ripe than the average, or that have been cut or bruised even in the slightest degree, should be culled out from those that are to be kept. These may be kept separately, to be used first, as they will often keep for some time without any trouble and are perfectly good to use. But the slightest scratch or bruise or "spot" must be sufficient to disqualify anything from the box or barrel or bin when they are being put away for the winter. In fact, bruises that are so slight that they can barely be detected will prove a possible source of a great deal of spoilage.
For this reason it is a good plan to store temporarily all things which it is difficult to keep, such as hard fruits, onions, pumpkins, squash, etc., and go over them again very carefully before they are put into final winter quarters. Even with these precautions they should be examined occasionally throughout the winter, and sorted over at the first sign of decay.
The factors which make for good storage conditions are, in general, three: ventilation, temperature, and the degree of moisture in the air. Of these, ventilation is the one most usually neglected, because its importance is not realized. It is not sufficient, as most persons think, to put the product to be stored in a cold or a warm place to be kept. Closely confined air, either cold or warm, makes for the development of bacteria or mold which causes decay.
The first essential to provide for, therefore, in selecting and making a place to store vegetables-whether in the cellar, out of doors, or in the attic-is ventilation. The details of providing ventilation, of course, will depend upon existing conditions, but it should be so arranged as to be easily controlled. Suggestions for providing ventilation for different types of rooms and pits for storing are shown in the accompanying cuts.
While the temperature in the storage rooms is usually controlled largely by ventilation, that alone cannot be counted upon altogether. with our modern methods of living, where every room in the house is heated and usually there is a furnace or heater of some kind in a small cellar, it is more difficult to find a cool place in which to store vegetables and fruits than was formerly the case. Generally, however, it will be possible either to devote a small room to storage purposes, or to partition off part of the cellar space, which, if it be fitted up to take advantage of all the room available, will accommodate a surprising quantity of vegetables for its size. In making a storeroom of this kind there should be direct ventilation to the outside, so that the room can be shut off entirely from the heated part of the cellar except when it is required to get things from it.
A few things require for their keeping a warm instead of a cool temperature. The difficulty in providing suitable quarters for these vegetables is in giving them a place where the temperature will be even - a constantly varying temperature is not conducive to good keeping.
A considerable amount of moisture in the air is required where root crops and other vegetables, which normally would remain in the soil, are to be kept. A dirt floor tends to equalize the air moisture and keep it normal. where a cement floor has to be used, however, soil, sand, moss, or some similar material which will keep the vegetables moist without being wet, can be used to pack them in. Pans of water set where they can evaporate will also tend to keep a normal amount of moisture in the air. A surplus of moisture, however, is just as objectionable as too little: this is one reason why ventilation is important. For a few things the atmosphere should be kept as dry as possible. These exceptions to the general rule are mentioned in the following paragraphs.