How to Keep Garden Veggies Fresh All Winter: The Pedersen Method

IMG_0637If you’re like me, you harvested a lot of vegetables this Fall.  Gardening in the Yukon is amazing!  With long hours of sunlight, a crop of vegetables can be yours in 10 weeks.  But then you have a huge harvest.  You can’t possibly eat them all in a few weeks.  Outside of freezing, how do you store vegetables?  Can someone store vegetables all winter and keep them as fresh as if they were still in the ground?  Well, I know a way.  Bruce Pedersen, local chiropractor, has been using a method that keeps tons of vegetables from his garden fresh all winter long.  Try his method and see if it works for you.

1.  For carrots, beets, turnips:  get a large paint bucket and place an ordinary kitchen trash bag inside the bucket as a liner.  Don’t use the drawstring, get the ones with those flaps you have to tie with.

2.  Pull up your vegetables from the ground.  Don’t wash them.  Just shake the dirt off.  Don’t wipe or try to clean them.  “When people scrub a vegetable clean, they damage the skin and then they have to eat it right away or it will rot faster,” Dr. Pedersen says.  So, don’t clean these.

3.  Right at the truck, he had a cutting board and a knife.  Take the knife and cut off the greens, slicing just at the top ofIMG_0650 the carrot, or beet.  For carrots and beets, you only make one cut–to take off the greens.  With beets, you leave on the long root if it has one.  For turnips, you’re going to make two cuts: one to clear off the greens, and the second to cut off the roots, so it’s a round ball.

IMG_06464. These headless carrots all go in the trash-bag lined bucket, all on top of each other.  Don’t worry if you get dirt in there.  Be careful putting them in the bucket.  If they’re long and break off on impact, then you have to dispose of them (eat them right there!)   They’ll rot if they go in the bucket broken.

This bucket actually needs more carrots in it first.
This bucket actually needs more carrots in it first.

5.  Fill the bucket till it’s 3/4 full or 4/5.  Then shake the bucket a bit to settle the carrots.  Then take ordinary peat moss and fill the bucket with peat moss till it is full.

6.  Then take the trashbag flaps and nearly cover the peat moss, leaving a hole showing the peat that’s about the size of a tennis ball.  “This is to help the peat moss breathe.  You don’t want it all completely covered–but you don’t want more than a small hole either.”  You’ll tape down the bag in place.

IMG_0647Notice the small hole where the peat moss still shows through.  Tape the bag down around it.

7.  Store the buckets of vegetables in your garage over the winter, or a cool, dry place.  Not a freezing place.  And not in your house where it will be too warm.  Maybe an entryway, or a back porch.

8.  Over the winter, just dig out your carrots, beets, turnips, etc.  from the buckets when you need them.

9.  For potatoes, put the bunch of potatoes in a large styrofoam cooler, the kind you get at Canadian Tire.  Fill that with peat moss too.  Cover with a trashbag, stretched out over the top, taped down in places, but with enough space in other places to let the peat moss breathe.  And just dig up a potato when you need it.

Why peat moss?  Peat is a moisture regulator.  It seems to draw in the extra moisture from the newly harvested vegetables and then gives it back to the vegetables when they get dry.  It seems also to slow the decay of the vegetables, almost holding them in a stasis for a longer period of time.  Sand doesn’t regulate moisture and is a lot messier to work with.  Also you need more sand to cover the vegetables because it will sink down to the bottom.  The peat mostly rests on top as a barrier to the cold dry air.

Bruce Pedersen has done this for several years and has had fresh vegetables all winter long.  Hopefully, the method will work for you too.

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One of our regular-size carrots!
One of his regular-size carrots!

Living Rhizomatically

I was weeding a garden I share with friends, and was struck by how efficiently and effectively weeds live. I was in the carrots, a flimsy mass of ferny tops, trying to find the source of a weed tendril that I had in my fingers. I’d pulled some before–and they snapped off easily–but I’d never pulled up the root. I’d just yanked of an arm or link to the weed chain. It seemed that this particular weed gripped in several places, poking a very small root from mulitple tendrils. Like Bridge columns. It made pulling the tendrils ineffective–as I only removed a bridge link. Inevitably the weed grew back because the source was still there. Like a Hydra.

Carrots are pretty well single rooted, as far as I can tell, designed maybe to fatten the main root so they can be plucked—sorry, that’s a bit human-centered even for me. But my point is that the carrot can be pulled up easily–thank god it isn’t built like a weed where it would have to be harvested with a backhoe. Or you might never even find the tasty root.

Anyway, there’s a metaphor coming: I was talking with a friend about careers, how life seemed to alter our plans and that the best people seemed to be able to change careers easily. The most interesting people we knew were people with their root systems in multiple places–who developed multiple skills–so that when a main source of income was pulled up, they could still survive on another skill set.

Here in the Yukon, the system seems to favor living rhizomatically. There are world renowned lepidopterists living as business administrators, guitarists who are cooks, romance writers who are policy analysts. I’ve watched folks who have prepared for one career be able to jump into something else entirely when the soil was rich for the secondary career and not the first: immigration officers becoming film producers/directors.

Seems to me that focus can be great–can hone a person. Tiger Woods is not living rhizomatically. But then, not all of us, perhaps, have the time/skill/etc. to be Woods. More often than not, those who have focussed on one career have been flustered when that career isn’t producing, when those doors shut, or when forces gather to stop that career–bad bosses, coworkers, rivals, spouses. They may have no other skill sets to “fall back on”–so they doggedly pursue their career goal beyond logic, or they settle for something they have no skill at all, nor passion. They followed the advice of Jack Palance in “City Slickers”–find one thing you like to do and pursue it. And that’s a good philosophy, but I’m seeing that a great back up is having several passions, several skill sets. Like that weed, you are hard to pull up, hard to damage because there is no central root; any runner can sustain the weed. Therefore, any of a multiple skill set might sustain a person.

Learn French, puppetry, work with kids, volunteer in a nursing home, paint, read books on Tibet, listen to avant garde ethereal music—I don’t know, but finding multiple passions, unlike the one finger that sustained Palance, might sustain you.