The real dirt on your food...
By Kevin Hamilton, Shared Harvest Farm
This is the time of year when we are busy harvesting all of our delicious root crops for winter storage. We want to store our crops in the best condition we can. This usually means exactly as they came from the earth. We don't wash them before we put them away. The dirt acts as a protective layer to help it be firm and defeat the arch nemesis that is oxygen. We pull the crops first and then go back and cut the green tops off when the roots have had the dirt dry a bit in the wind.
Here at Shared Harvest Farm we keep half of our roots in bins with a little bit of air flow on the sides and the other half buried in peat moss. This allows little oxygen flow and keeps the roots crisp and fresh for the months ahead. Traditionally crops were left in a giant pile with a giant pile with a few feet of hay on top to insulate them. Farmers and families would go into their piles, peel back the straw and grab their vegetable loot for a winter soup or stew. My grandmother tells me stories of keeping the veggies in the corner of the basement in sand. Nowadays, there is controlled atmosphere rooms where the oxygen is removed from the room and kept at 2 degrees celcius. This keeps apples and other storage crops as fresh as the day they were picked and don't require any dirt protection.
The other reason the veggies aren't washed is that we are on a well. We have limited water and we feel that most people will wash the veggies again before they cut them up to eat. There is also a lot more handling than their summer counterparts wherein we have to harvest them, store them, unpack them into boxes, wash them and repackage them for deliver. In the summer we simply harvest them, wash them then pack them.