It’s become a common habit in our modern age, to buy our vegetables at the grocery store, bring them home, and put them straight into the refrigerator. But, this is not always the best practice because many vegetables lose their nutritional value when exposed to cold temperatures.
To preserve your vegetables without a fridge, you first have to be a savvy shopper or consider growing your own. Many vegetables can be stored in a cool dark spot without refrigeration. Other vegetables can be stored in the basement or cellar in the sand while others can be dehydrated and stored in the pantry or store cupboard.
Be a Savvy Shopper
If you have to go out and buy your vegetables, it’s important to pick them well in order to get the most shelf-life out of them. Here are some points to consider.
- Avoid buying refrigerated vegetables as these will spoil quite quickly if they’re left out of the fridge.
- Only select vegetables that are blemish free and not overripe.
- Buy only what you’re going to need for the week.
- Carry them home carefully so that they’re not rubbing against each other.
- Try to avoid washing your vegetables before storing them.
Vegetables that Can Be Stored in the Pantry
There are some vegetables that should never be stored in the fridge. If you pop these into the fridge, they’ll lose some of their flavor as well as their nutritional value.
Let’s look at some common vegetables that should not be stored in the fridge and where you should keep them.
Garlic and Onions
Both of these vegetables should not be exposed to moist environments such as the fridge. They can safely be stored at room temperature either in a basket on the counter or in the pantry.
Potatoes should never be exposed to the cold environment of a refrigerator because they tend to undergo certain chemical changes when they’re exposed to the cold.
However, potatoes should be stored in a cool dark spot, otherwise, they may turn green when exposed to light. You can either store them in the cellar if you have one or pop them in a covered basket at the bottom of the pantry.
Tomatoes continue to ripen and develop their delicious flavor when stored at room temperature rather than in the fridge. In fact, storing them in the fridge makes them lose some of their flavor and also shortens their shelf life.
Tomatoes can usually be kept in the fruit bowl for a few days or you can prep them and freeze them if you want to store them for longer. Bear in mind, that you’ll only be able to use them in cooking once they’ve been frozen.
Tomatoes are also perfect for dehydrating if you have one of these units at home. Be sure to slice them quite thinly to limit their drying time. Once dehydrated, you can place them in a clean jar and store them in the pantry.
Peppers, Cucumbers, and Eggplants
All of these fruits are best stored at room temperature because they will quickly rot when kept in the moist environment of the refrigerator. Once again, all three of these should keep for at least a week if you store them in a basket on the kitchen counter.
If you’ve been growing your own and you have an abundant supply, you can easily pickle these fruits and store them in the cupboard. Peppers and eggplants can also be frozen after they’ve been prepped.
Ways to Preserve Vegetables that Need Cold Storage
While many of the vegetables that we consume on a regular basis can be stored quite safely on the kitchen counter or in the storeroom, there are some that cannot and will rot fairly quickly. So, how can you preserve these if you don’t have a refrigerator? Here are a few clever tricks.
In the days before everyone had a fridge in their home, home gardeners who grew their own produce would dry a lot of this out in the sun. Vegetables such as chilies and tomatoes were left out in the sun until they had dried completely. Even many different herbs were preserved this way.
In our modern world, however, we have the convenience of home dehydrators that we can use to speed up the process. But, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try drying some of your produce out in the sun.
Thread your freshly washed vegetables together using some garden twine and hang them outside where they’ll receive plenty of sunshine. Once they’re completely dry, you can pack them into clean glass jars and store them in the pantry.
Pickling is another preservation method that is undergoing a revival among homesteaders and backyard gardeners. And, you don’t have to reserve pickling just for cucumbers. All sorts of vegetables can be successfully pickled and stored in glass jars in the pantry or store cupboard.
There are three methods used for pickling vegetables that you might like to try.
The Quick-Pickling Method
This method involves blanching the vegetables quickly in salty water. Then, the vegetables are packed into clean and sterilized glass jars. Finally, the vegetables are topped with a solution of brine and white vinegar. You can even use apple cider vinegar instead of plain old white vinegar.
The Fermentation Method
For this method, the vegetables are left to ferment in a cool dark spot in a solution of brine and spices. This helps to enrich the vegetables with important probiotics that help with digestion.
The Oil-Pickling Method
With this method, the vegetables are dipped into a solution of salt, mustard oil, and spices and then left to dehydrate.
Canning has been used for centuries by home gardeners to help preserve some of their excess produce to use during the colder months when nothing will grow outside. This is actually one of the best ways to preserve vegetables for a long period of time.
There are two basic methods of canning commonly used today.
Using a Water Bath
Foods that are high in acid are particularly suited to this method. For this method, you place your vegetables into clean and sterilized glass jars that you seal shut by placing them upside down in a boiling pot of water.
However, it is recommended that you keep vegetables canned this way in the refrigerator in order to avoid the growth of bacteria.
Using a Pressure Canner
To preserve your canned vegetables for longer and so that you can store them in the pantry, you should use a pressure canner. These units will heat your canned vegetables above 240 degrees Fahrenheit (115 degrees Celsius). This high temperature is necessary to kill any bacteria.
Storing Them in Sand
Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips can be stored for a number of months in the basement or cellar by placing them in a large container filled with sand. The sand helps to absorb any moisture and your root vegetables will stay crisp and firm.
All you need is a large container, some sand from your local garden center, and a lid to keep any rodents out. Make sure that you place your vegetables in a single layer and leave some space between each one.
You can continue to layer your vegetables this way, placing sand between each layer, until the container is full. Make sure that you check them periodically to ensure that they’re free from moisture.