Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Storing Beets The Old Fashioned Way (Kind of...)

I've been reading about ways to store beets. We still have some left from the first harvest, and there are two more plantings still in the ground. I'm not a big fan of pickled beets, and freezing them turns them a bit mushy - bearable, but not as yummy as fresh.

What I learned is that storing them in damp sand - the old fashioned way - is still the best thing to do. They'll keep from 2-5 months this way. If I harvest the last batch in October, we could still feasibly be eating fresh beets in March.

Here's what we did:

Bought a big Sterilite container with a lid from Wal Mart. (If we were really going for old fashioned, we'd use a wooden crate. But wooden crates are not readily available these days, and plastic made in China is.) We already had sand on hand, and it was already damp. We poured in enough to make a 1-2" layer on the bottom of the container.

Then we set the beets on top, separated enough that if one starts to rot, it won't spread easily to the others:

Then we put another layer of sand on to cover them.

You can keep layering them this way until the container is full. I chose a fairly shallow container because I didn't want to have to dig too deep to find dinner.

When you're done, put the lid on - this holds in the moisture and keeps the beets from drying out and getting shriveled.

Ideally, I'd have a root cellar to store the tub in. Unfortunately, root cellars are not commonly found in homes in our area, so the basement will have to suffice. Anywhere that stays pretty cool should do.

Now, I have no idea if this is going to work or not, so don't trust me too much. It's all an experiment. I just know that I don't have room in the fridge for the 150 beets we'll have before the end of the growing season, so I had to try something else. I'll let you know how it works as time goes by.

Other beet storing tips I've learned along the way:
Leave them dirty. Washing them causes them to deteriorate more quickly, so just brush them off a bit and go ahead and store them.

Trim the leaves off fairly soon after harvest - the leaves will draw moisture from the root, causing it to shrivel much more quickly. Leave the 'tail' on the bottom though - trimming it makes a beet-red mess all over.

Eat your beet greens! So many people don't know they're edible. Beets and swiss chard are essentially the same plant, except that chard doesn't grow a bulbous root. Beet greens taste just the same, and they are plentiful when you're growing beets. Small beet greens cans are also tasty in salads.

Does anyone else have any beet growing or storing tips to share?


Wendy said...

Great tips! As usual, I planted and gave up on my beets. I tried pulling one up and do have a little something, but they're pretty small. I think my mom is dehydrating them. I think. SHe'a always dehydrating something. Right now my parents are OBSESSED with beets and the healing properties of beets. They're always drinking something made from beets. Either juiced or a brewed. I'll have to get more details.

Anonymous said...

My husband feels your plastic container will not breathe as does a wooden box.

Emmy said...

Did this work? I've got a TON of beets this year, and more plastic containers than fridge space.


Jessica said...

Also, I was wondering if this worked? I will do it if it worked!

Julie said...

Gosh, I thought I posted a follow up to this somewhere, but I can't find it.
Yes, this worked - for awhile, anyway. I vented the lids every so often if I found that the condensation was building up. In our dry climate, that wasn't too often. All of the beets for the next four months that I pulled out were in wonderful condition - firm and fresh tasting. After that, they deteriorated a bit. I'd pull out one that might be a bit soggy/rotted, but then a couple more that would be perfect. But four months' worth of beet storage was definitely worth the effort involved in this storage method. Hope that answers your questions!

Valdo Saat said...

My late uncle used to do the same with carrots, so it must work.