You invested a whole season into that beet harvest! Now how do you store them for the long haul?
If you garden and store root crops for the off season, you know the heartbreak and disgust when you realize that there's something rotten in there. Not to mention the 'YUCK' of it.
So how should you prep your beets for storage? Proper preparation will prevent rot from setting in and spoiling the whole lot.
The key is to remove any organic material that can be a source for rot to set in. We learned from master plant breeder, Dr. John Navazio, how to trim the tops to ensure a virtual 100% success rate.
With a very sharp knife trim the bottom root to about 1/2" long. Then position the blade at the base of the beet top (leaves) and slice upwards at about a 50 degree angle several times around the top, removing all of the leaf material. For those of you who are very visual, watch our video of the process here.
Do NOT wash your beets before packaging. The surface is covered with helpful microbes that help thwart any organisms that can cause rot. Just brush off any excess soil and leave the microbial armor in place.
Once you've prepped the roots for storage, the next step is packaging! We use a strong plastic bag and punch 3/4" sized holes on a 3" grid across the width and length of the bags to ventilate them. This prevents excessive moisture from building up but keeps the beets from dehydrating as well. Basically, you are allowing the bags of beets to 'breathe' just enough to maximize their storability.
We have added wood chips to the bags in the past to help regulate moisture-- preventing too much moisture by soaking it up but then in turn providing a dampening effect to prevent drying out. We have found wood chips are not necessary in our system. However, if your storage tends to lack humidity, adding damp wood chips might serve you well. (Some species of wood chips may be toxic
We store our beets in the barn's well pit, where the humidity is 95-99% and temperature is upper 30s°F to around 40°F and stays steady through the winter months. A root cellar will serve the same function. If you don't have either of those, the closer you can get to the ideal temperature and humidity, and keep those at a steady level, the longer your beets will store for you!
Wishing you every success in storing your harvest! Happy Thanksgiving!!
Our best to you, Theresa & Dan