Storing or preserving your harvest well will allow you to enjoy more of your crops, for longer.
Many crops store brilliantly, but if they’re showing signs of rot, disease or pest damage or are unripe, it’s best to eat what you can of them straightaway (cut away any affected areas), or bin or compost them.
For advice on how to store crops, check out our projects on how to store carrots, apples, chillies and onions.
Don’t forget – there are lots of ways to make the most of your harvests, including pickling or making vinegars and chutneys. Find out more in our guide to preserving your harvests.
Here’s what to look out for before you store your crops.
Cabbage hearts with holes from caterpillars don’t store well but can be eaten after cutting and cleaning. Hearts that aren’t tight, due to having been planted late or being a non-hearting variety, are best eaten within a month of harvesting.
A cabbage heart with holes in its leaves
Carrots with root fly damage need to be eaten soon, as the maggots will feed on the roots in storage. Try growing a resistant variety, such as ‘Maestro’, pictured. Parsnips and celeriac can also be affected, but can still be stored as they have more dry matter in the root.
A bunch of freshly harvested carrots ‘Maestro’
Onions and shallots
Onions and shallots showing signs of neck rot at the top, fungal damage at the base or onion fly maggots should be used straight away, once the damaged parts are removed. Bin any alliums with white rot – a fluffy mould on their roots.
An onion with mouldy neck rot
Runner or French beans
If you didn’t get around to harvesting your beans early enough and the pods are swollen but still mostly green by autumn, remove the beans from the pods and boil for 15-20 minutes – they’re delicious.
Runner bean ‘White Lady’
Baby carrots, beetroots, parsnips, swedes and turnips
These will dry out in storage, so are best eaten soon after picking. However, small onions, shallots and garlic bulbs often store as well as large ones.
Freshly harvested baby carrots
Don’t store tomatoes from plants affected by blight. As soon as you spot tell-tale brown blotches on the leaves or stems, harvest and eat the fruits straightaway – the flavour may not be as good. If stored, the fruits are likely to develop blight, so cook and freeze instead.
A withered blighted tomato plant
Trim and store
When storing anything, it’s a good idea to trim off any leafy ends, leaving an inch or so on to prevent them drying out while in storage. Fruits and vegetables should be stored separately; some fruits, like bananas, give off high levels of ethylene which can cause veg to spoil more quickly.