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Storing Your Vegetables: You Must Know the Basics


Storing of vegetables properly is a very important part of practicing gardening. Though we are doing very well in gardening, the importance of storing of vegetables can’t be ignored. All our efforts for producing good quality crops will be wasted if the vegetables are not stored properly. This article will give you some tips on how you can store your garden yield.
While storing fresh vegetables 2 main points you need to take into consider.
  1. Water loss
  2. Respiration rate
The meaning of proper storage is to place the harvested vegetables in an environment where essential life processes like respiration can continue in a very slow rate and the water loss can be minimal.
Preventing water lossis one of the important factors in storing vegetables. Water loss can cause wilted and dull looking vegetables. Storing in low temperature with high humidity will prevent the vegetables from loosing water.
Respiration of the vegetable is another reason which you need to take into consideration while storing. The rate of respiration varies with the water content of the vegetables. For example at a given temperature leafy vegetables such as spinach and lettuce will respire more than potato or carrots. The rate is also higher in immature vegetables.
During respiration oxygen is absorbed and sugar present within the cells breaks down into energy, carbon Di oxide, water and heat.  For keeping the vegetables in a proper edible condition the respiration level should be held at very low level. You can slow down the respiration level by reducing the oxygen level.  This is done by keeping the vegetables in perforated plastic bags or by covering the pot in which the vegetables are kept. Please don’t use total airtight containers these will stop the respiration process entirely and the vegetables will not be as tasteful as it should be.
We usually store vegetables in refrigerators. The refrigerators keep the temperature usually uniform but the temperature may vary within different compartments. In most of the cases temperature is lowest just beneath the freezer.  This causes the warmer air to circulate around the side. This air is also sometime lower in humidity and thus causes any uncovered vegetables to dry out.
For the storing purposes the vegetables are divided in 4 groups:
Group 1: these vegetables are the most sensitive to temperature and humidity. These have the highest respiration rate and water loss can be huge if not taken proper care. They should be stored in 30-40 deg F and 90% humidity. It can be sub divided into group A and group B.
Group A: Lettuce, Spinach, green onions, Swiss chord etc.
Group B: Broccoli, beet, Cabbage, Celery, Radishes etc.
Group A vegetables are best stored when kept in crisper state and washed before storing. Store Group B vegetables in plastic bags or containers and keep them in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
Group 2: These types of vegetables are little less sensitive to temperature but very sensitive to humidity. Storing these vegetables requires 40-50 deg F temperature and 90-95% humidity. Though most of the time it is not possible to maintain such a customized temperature and humidity, don’t keep these vegetables in refrigerator for more than 7 days.
Vegetables such as Bell peppers, Cucumbers, Squash, ripe Melons etc. are in included in this category.
Group 3: Vegetables such as ripe tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Okra, Eggplants are included in group 3. These vegetables are prone to chilling injury. Ideal temperature for storing is 60 deg F You don’t need to put them inside the refrigerator for storing. Rather it is better to keep them in a cool and dark place.  
Group 4: Dry Garlic, melons are grouped in this group. Store them where there is an absence of direct sunlight.
Another piece of advice, don’t store many ripen food together with fresh vegetables. Ripen fruit emit ethylene gas. It will cause the vegetables to become yellow, sprout the potatoes and cause bitterness in carrots.

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