The average U.S. person consumes 420 pounds of vegetables per year, according to USDA figures. Almost 40 percent of those — about 164 pounds — are crops that are fairly easy to grow and to store well into winter and even spring. So this is a good time to plan your garden so that you grow enough of those storage crops for your consumption, and to start thinking about good places to store these crops.

Here’s the breakdown, per year:

• 0.5 lb. beets
• 8.2 lbs. cabbage
• 10.6 lbs. carrots
• 21.7 lbs. onions
• 118.7 lbs. potatoes
• 0.5 lb. radishes
• 4.2 lbs. winter squash

And these 164 pounds of vegetables can be grown in about 100 row-feet of garden.

Keys to storing these crops are to save the best specimens for the root cellar (basement, crawl space, etc.); to provide temperature and humidity regimes that are as close to ideal for each crop as possible; and to cure some crops — onions, winter squash and potatoes — before storing them.

The best specimens for storage are those without insects, diseases or deep wounds present.

Storage conditions fall into four categories:

1. Cold and very moist (32 to 40 F, 90 to 95 percent relative humidity) for beets and carrots. Store these, for example, in a crawl space or root cellar in boxes or trays with damp leaves, peat moss or sand around the produce to keep them moist.

2. Cold and moist (32 to 40 F, 80 to 90 percent relative humidity). Cabbage and potatoes like these conditions, and do well in a damp, cold cellar or root cellar. Don’t wash potatoes before putting them into storage; simply brush off any soil clinging to them.

3. Cool and dry (35 to 50 F, 60 to 70 percent relative humidity). This is the place for onions (and garlic) — perhaps in a basement or an unheated room in the house.

4. Moderately warm and dry (50 to 60 F, 60 to 70 percent relative humidity). We have a kitchen cabinet in the northeast corner of the house that comes close to these conditions for much of the winter. An unheated bedroom is another possibility. Maybe it’s time to put pantries back into homes.

Some crops do best when “cured” before storage — that is, kept under conditions that promote minor wounds to heal and skin to toughen. Garlic, onions and winter squash should be kept at 70 to 80 F and 50 to 70 percent relative humidity for about seven days before going into storage; onions and garlic should be cured with their upper leaves on, then these should be cut back to about an inch from the bulb before the vegetables are stored. Potatoes can be cured at 65 to 75 F and 80 to 90 percent relative humidity for a week to 10 days before they go into storage — and cure and store them in the dark to prevent potatoes from turning green.

Here are some useful articles with more information about growing and storing these and other crops:

A Dozen Storage Crops for Homegrown Food Security, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Winter 2009-2010,

Cold Cellars for Year-Round Local Food and Farming,

Using a Bulkhead as a Root Cellar, by Adam Tomash, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Summer 2011,