We work so hard in the summer to have a beautiful garden and fresh produce. When you grow your own plant, the growing season quickly turns into harvest time. I will soon have a surplus of vegetables to store for the fall and winter.
Instead of freezing the vegetables or storing them in a vegetable cellar, our family always stored the excess harvest in the sand. Our homegrown root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, onions, ginger, and radishes, are dug up year after year to preserve them. We also store apples and pears in the same way. Just make sure the apples and vegetables are stored in separate containers because ethylene is released from the apples.
Root vegetables can also be safely stored in the ground in cooler temperatures. I usually wait for the harvest after the first frost. Be careful, the longer you wait, the easier it is for rodents and insects to enter your crops.
I have found that the sand preservation method is the coolest and most natural way to make my hard work in the garden pay off during the coldest months. The preservation of plants in the sand also makes it possible to
- cheap storage
- Harvested products stay fresh longer
- Easy to handle and maintain
Each preparer has their own way of storing vegetables in the sand, but I want to share my storage method. Our family’s secrets about sand storage have been passed down from generation to generation, and it’s important that we stick to what works for you. There are a few considerations that are non-negotiable in my sand protection work.
Hot vegetables need the right temperature with the right amount of moisture to stay in good condition.
The ideal storage temperature is between 32 and 40 degrees and the humidity is about 95%. The colder it is, the more the vegetables freeze; the warmer it is, the more they grow.
I use an insulated box that I made myself, which is just a big wooden box inside a big wooden box. The large space between the sandboxes is filled with straw and serves as insulation. You can also use drywall insulation in the corner of your shed or garage to regulate the temperature, as long as the structure is nailed down.
Rodents and pests are a major threat to your conservation.
If you are new to this method, you can use your vegetable drawer as a last resort for canned vegetables in sand. Keep this in mind and prepare for next year with a more permanent solution.
I store the sand in the basement in a well-insulated room to ensure a constant temperature in this area during the winter.
I keep this room unheated and closed to maintain constant humidity.
If you don’t have storage in your basement, you can use a corner of your shed or garage. Make sure you insulate with sheet material to prevent the temperature from going below freezing. Some sheds and garages can act as warm boxes even in the winter sun, so be careful when choosing a location.
Type of sand
My family has been using play sand for preserving for years, i.e. sand that has been washed, sieved and dried. This is the safest type of sand for use near food.
Play sand is usually found in sandboxes and children’s playgrounds.
I buy my sand in 50 pound bags from the surplus store in the garden. The sand is wet when you buy it. If you find that your sand is not wet enough, spray it lightly with a bottle and air it with your fingers. Do this before you pack the vegetables.
Sand storage method
- First, I remove all leaves and greens from my root vegetables and avoid cutting off the flesh of the vegetables. I don’t wash vegetables before storing them, but you can remove some dirt and sand from the flesh and roots.
- You want to select the best fruit from your harvest for storage. Ripe, but not overripe vegetables with a flawless surface are key.
- Pour several inches of sand evenly across the bottom of the box. Place your vegetables in the first layer of sand, then continue to sprinkle the sand and vegetables as you would a canned vegetable lasagna. The sand should cover all the vegetables and leave a few inches in between. Vegetables must not be touched.
In three simple steps, you will have fresh produce from your own garden all winter long. There are other useful tips I’ve learned over the years:
- Harvesting vegetables from the garden in dry weather. Leave them with the roots in the sun for a few hours to harden the outer skin.
- Check your vegetables once a week after you plant them in the sand. It’s scary how quickly rot can spread through your plants, so make sure you see and smell them often.
- Store vegetables like carrots and parsnips because they grow in the ground, carrots down.
- Make sure the roots of your vegetables are flexible before storing them. Roots that are too wet cause rot and roots that are too dry cause wilting.
- Eat the crop before it shows signs of rotting. These crops are designed to last all winter, from two to five months.
Having a large garden in the summer is the best way to ensure that our families have enough to eat, because society today is not stable enough to rely on that. If summer is over and you have a farmers market you want to keep, it’s time to get smart about your storage solutions.
Storing vegetables with sand is not a new storage method, but it is effective. It preserves the vitamins and minerals your family needs to survive, unlike freezing or canning.
A nice fresh carrot in the middle of winter, that you didn’t have to buy at the store, is a nice feeling, not only as an omen, but also as a person who provides healthy food for their family.
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