Cooling vegetables?

redindiana(z5 IN)April 28, 2004

Just new to market gardening. Starting out small. Might there be a less costly way of cooling vegetables after picking them? I've read and located diagrams for coolers...DH would have an attack if I needed to invest that kind of $$ just trying this out. I know that the best time to pick is early in the day...less heat and stress on product. Could I not possibly place in cool basement w/ box fans cooling them. Planning on picking just the day before going to farmers'market. The market is only in it's 2nd year...really small...don't know if will catch on with our small town. Thanks for any advice!

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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

Hydro cooling is not hard to do nor expensive. Get a tub full of clean very cold water and put the produce in ASAP (I generally bring things after no more than 45 minutes of harvesting. I always make sure to have lots of damp towels to put over my harvest tubs between picking and getting cooled down, sun is the last thing you want on your tender crops). after getting cooled off in the water I put all greens though a salad spinner (you can use string laundry bags to spin dry as well but it is not nearly as effective and takes about 6x longer to do and can do a really nice job on your rotator cuff but a string bag costs about $4 and a good commercial salad spinner costs around $175 and worth every penny if you grow greens). you will need to replace or recool the water after every two or 3 batches of produce.

As soon as things are cool and dry they go into the fridge. Several years ago I was offered a huge 3 door commercial fridge for $800 so I bought it. new these things go for around $5000 and used generally $2300. It's about a third the area of a 10' x 10' walk in.

Putting the produce in the basement with a fan will not work well. The faster produce can be cooled to 42ËF and than kept at that temp the better quality it will have. Greens left out in 60ËF for more than 5 hours will be wilted, strawberries can usually stay in a basement for 2 days before beginning to rot, broccoli about 24 hours, cabbages will be okay for a week or more, carrots will get soft in 12 hours as will beets. maybe if you put an air conditioner in the basement and ran that (which would make for a pricy electric bill) you may be able to keep the basement at around 42ËF

If you are serious about growing produce for market I would suggest going to an auction or yard sale and get a cheap, used, working fridge or two for produce storage and put it (them) on your back porch or barn or where ever you are cleaning your harvest. The fridge(s) will save you a lot of time and worry.

I went the same route for two years and the year we got refrigeration was the year our produce went from okay quality to great quality and sales improved. It also meant I did not have to push back harvest to a few hours before market no matter what the weather. With refrigeration I can easily plan out harvesting knowing that things will be just fine for several days in the fridge


    Bookmark   April 28, 2004 at 11:29AM
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redindiana(z5 IN)

Thanks so much for your detailed advice! Printing off so I don't forget anything. Haven't seen very much on this topic...everybody else must know how...thanks again! :-)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2004 at 10:37AM
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i put my stuff in the basement....except for broccolli, basil, swiss chard...which i pick the morning of the market.
the basement works out fine. been doing this for 10 years.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2004 at 12:18PM
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hi red

try also harvesting your produce early in the day. that will also help reduce the amount of heat the post-harvest cooling procedure have to contend with.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2004 at 7:34PM
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Bob_Piper(NE Oklahoma)

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has developed plans on how to take a 110V. window air conditioner (even a used one) and make it cool down to around 35 degrees with a little tinkering with the thermostat and etc. I haven't done it yet but intend to build one.
Write Dan Schofer, Agricultural Engineer at the U.S.D.A. and request a copy of the info and plans. Its Paper No. 946587 by Daniel P. Schofer et al.
Address... Dan Schofer, USDA-AMS-Transportation and Marketing Division Building 263 Room 301 BARC East
Beltsville, Md. 20705
This info may be available online but I have no idea how to access it.
Hope this might help someone.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2004 at 10:12AM
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I think this is it - they call it a "Portacooler" and it uses an air conditioner.


Here is a link that might be useful: Cooler

    Bookmark   May 4, 2004 at 10:55AM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

To keep veggies cool at market use coolers, ice packs (not ice) and lots of towels. Put the veggies in the cooler, cover with towels (you want several thicknesses between the ice packs and the produce of the produce will freeze) and put the ice packs on top of the towels. you veggies shouls dtay nice anbd frsh all through the hottest markets. Unless of course you put everything out on your table.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2004 at 4:16PM
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redindiana(z5 IN)

A sideline to my original about sanitizing veggies after hydro cooling?
A website http:://

recommends a sodium hypochlorite solution (Clorox) or food-grade hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant. To protect consumers from foodborne illnesses and the produce against postharvest diseases. Is this really necessary? I've had a home garden for many years...never crossed my mind... to worry about this. Selling to the I getting myself paranoid?!? :-0 Thanks for any advice anyone can offer!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2004 at 9:44AM
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I learned the hard way about the cooling/freezing of greens. I am doing my first market this year, I only had two layers of towels betweeen "blue ice" and cellophane bags filled with greens and when I got to market (10 minutes from my house) the bottoms of two bags were frozen! The week before, I didn't have this problem. Today, it was really hot - don't know if this had anything to do with it. Another learning experience.

Also, how long do you who spin your greens spin them, and, do you put them in the fridge bagged and closed? I am just curious and still not sure if I'm doing this "right". I've definitely gotten the greens in and cooled in a timely fashion but not sure if what I'm doing is getting enough moisture out. Oh, I'm sure the summer will be a learning process.

Also, I'm selling my mixed greens with herbs and for 3.50 for 5 oz. I only have a large garden, with a very slow growing season this year, so I'm having a hard time keeping up with demand. My conundrum is whether I need to raise my price (this is only our second market). I'd love to hear what others have done if they've had this kind of situation or any suggestions they might have. I am currently the only vendor doing a greens mix.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2004 at 8:46PM
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