In this post I'll discuss the easiest vegetables to store and how to store them. These veggies are on my “must plant” list, because they require little or no processing and last reliably for months.
They should be a staple in every vegetable garden, or “stock up” item from the farmers market.
- #1 – Onions – Our Top Pick for Easiest Vegetables to Store
- #2 – Garlic
- #3 – Shell Beans
- #4 – Winter Squash
- How to Cure Winter Squash for Storage
- #5 – Parsnips
- Another Great Keeper – Popcorn and Other Dried Corn
#1 – Onions – Our Top Pick for Easiest Vegetables to Store
Onions top our list of easiest vegetables to store because we use so many of them.
I plant several hundred onions each year. Just the smell of them on the stove top can bring the boys into the kitchen saying, “mmmmmmm”.
To prepare onions for storage, we dig them, cure them, brush off dirt and trim tops. Then they go on trays in the middle of the root cellar.
- Preferred temperature range = 32 to 35°F (0 to 1.7°C)
- Relative Humidity = 60 to 70 percent
With a single layer of onions in tray storage, I can quickly see if any start to sprout or spoil.
Onions can sit on your kitchen counter for a while, but the warmth makes them sprout.
In my experience, strong flavored yellow onions tend to keep the best, followed by reds and then whites. Sweet onions have the shortest shelf life.
Our storage onions generally last from one season to the next, even in less than perfect conditions (our root cellar tends to stay a little warm).
#2 – Garlic
Like their onion cousins, garlic bulbs keep best in cool, dry storage.
- Preferred temperature range = 32 to 35°F (0 to 1.67°C)
- Relative Humidity = 60 to 70 percent
Garlic is also easy to grow, as long as you have good soil. Plant a clove in fall, and harvest a whole bulb the following summer.
I keep a bulb or two on the kitchen counter, while the rest hang out on the middle shelves in the root cellar.
For more garlicky goodness, visit “How to Grow Garlic – From Planting to Harvest“.
#3 – Shell Beans
Although they are cooked like a starch, shell beans originate as a vegetable, so I group them together with other storage veggies. Like onions and garlic, store in a cool, dry location. (See a trend here?)
- Preferred temperature range = 32 to 50°F (0 to 10°C)
- Relative Humidity = 60 to 70 percent
Beans are a great to keep stashed in a cooler bedroom, closet or pantry as part of your long term food storage.
How long will shell beans (dry beans) keep?
Utah State University Extension concludes:
Scientific studies on vitamin loss in dried beans during prolonged storage could not be found. The loss would be expected to follow similar patterns as other long term stored foods where vitamin degradation occurs after 2-3 years and most vitamins are no longer present after approximately five years.
Storage at warm temperatures will accelerate vitamin degradation. The other nutritional components (proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, etc) should remain unchanged during long term storage.
When packaged in #10 cans or Mylar-type bags, with the oxygen removed, they have a shelf life of 10 or more years. A BYU study indicated that pinto beans did experience a slight loss of quality during storage.
However, samples that had been stored up to 30 years had greater than 80 percent acceptance by a consumer taste panel for emergency food use. The study concluded that pinto beans should be considered acceptable for use in long-term food storage efforts.
From personal experience, after 2-3 years in mason jars the beans cook just fine. (This is with clean beans placed in a jar with lid screwed on and no vacuum storage or oxygen absorbers)
Beyond that, they start to get dry and tough and some don't get tender no matter how much you cook them.
“How to Harvest Shell Beans” covers harvesting and preparing dried beans, along with a couple of my favorite bean recipes.
#4 – Winter Squash
The star of long keeping winter squashes (in my experience) is the spaghetti squash, also known as “vegetable spaghetti”. An undamaged, properly cured spaghetti squash will outlast any other winter squash.
Depending on the variety, cured winter squash and pumpkins will last anywhere from a month or two to the better part of a year.
- Preferred temperature range = 50 to 55°F (10 to 12.8°C)
- Relative Humidity = 60 to 75 percent
A general rule of thumb is that the thicker the skin, the longer it will last in storage. If it takes a hack saw or hatchet to break in, you've probably got a good keeper.
Let squash ripen thoroughly on the vine. The skin should be firm enough that you can't dent it with a fingernail.
When you're picking your squash, cut it from the vine and keep the stem intact. Don't drop it or break the stem – bruises and stem wounds turn to rot.
If hard frost or snow is threatening and you know your squash won't have enough time to ripen, you can pick it green and use it like an overgrown zucchini. (Pretend you're Ma Ingalls and make a mock apple pie.) Hard frost will damage the skins and cause spoilage.
How to Cure Winter Squash for Storage
To cure ripe squash, place them in a warm, dry location with good air circulation for one to two weeks. This dries them out and toughens up their skins.
Because the pores on the skin of the fruit shrink during curing, it also slows the respiration rate of the fruit – which means it rots more slowly. Don't bother curing acorn squash – it makes them stringy.
Once cured, I wipe off any big dirt balls and place into storage on one of the higher root cellar shelves, on the basement stairs, or on the floor of the canning pantry.
Note that winter squash likes a storage area that's a little warmer than the other veggies, so cool spots around the house will do for storage. (No root cellar required.)
#5 – Parsnips
Grocery store parsnips are a sad looking vegetable, trimmed down and heavily waxed to keep them from shriveling as they sit, ignored, in an out of the way corner of the produce section.
Garden parsnips are a springtime star, providing one of the first harvests of the season when few other fresh vegetables are available. We harvest roots planted in mid-spring of one year very early in the spring of the next year.
My preferred method of parsnip storage is to leave them right where they are growing in the garden. We cover them with a heavy layer of straw mulch before the ground freezes.
In springtime, as soon as the ground thaws, we dig them out of their winter den. Quite a few are eaten immediately – my eldest LOVES parsnips, so digging day is also Parsnip Feast Day.
Roots not eaten immediately are washed and the tops trimmed to around 1/2 inch (if needed – you want to dig before they start growing too much).
They will easily keep in the crisper drawer of the fridge for a month or so, if they last that long.
Other root vegetables I tried to overwinter here in Wisconsin ( carrots, potatoes, beets) have all rotted after the freeze/thaw cycle, but parsnips just get sweeter and more delicious.
You can see photos of our parsnip stash and harvest in the post, “The Parsnip Squid and the Rock That Moves“.
Another Great Keeper – Popcorn and Other Dried Corn
Corn is a grain, not a vegetable, but I still wanted to include it with our list of easiest vegetables to store.
There's a reason that Native Americans grew the Three Sisters (Shell Beans, Dried Corn and Squash) as a traditional companion planting. Besides complementing each other in the garden, all three crops also store very well.
Flint (Zea mays indurata), also known as Indian corn, is harvested at full maturity when the head are dry on the stalk. Popcorn is a type of flint corn.
Simply wait until the green has faded from the husk of the corn cob, pick, pull back husks, and allow to dry thoroughly.
I spread my popcorn out in boxes. Often the corn is bundled by the husks and hung to dry.
Note: Flint corn is not the same as Sweet corn (Zea saccharata or Zea rugosa).
Once the corn is completely dry, you can shuck it and place the kernels in an airtight container for longer storage.
More Information on Storage Vegetables, Food Storage and Preservation
Want to know more about stored vegetables and food preserving?
Let me know if you have any questions about storage vegetables, and I'll do my best to help.
If you live in another area of the country or different climate (we are in northeast Wisconsin), I'd love to hear which fruits and vegetables are easiest to store in your area.
I know sweet potatoes are popular with some of my southern friends, and regular potatoes are a root cellar favorite. There's always more to learn and to grow.
Sweet Potatoes – Reader Suggestion
Terri emailed me after reading this post in the newsletter:
“I expected to see sweet potatoes in your list of easiest vegetables to
store. Sweet potatoes last longer than most of the vegetables you listed
for me. The sweet potatoes I harvested last year are still good. I store
them in an attached garage stacked in vegetable boxes from the grocery
My harvest was so good that I gave them to everyone at work and the local
homeless shelter all winter and still am eating sweet potatoes every week.
I dig them before a forecasted frost, put them in flat stacking vegetable boxes, and stack the boxes in the garage for storage.”
Originally published in 2014, last updated in 2020.