Root cellars & Food Storage

zuni(5a)April 2, 2010

The posts about root cellars are very old. Maybe it is time for a new discussion. I would like to hear from anyone that has SUCCESSFULLY tried preserving fresh foods this way.

I am reading "Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables" by Mike & Nancy Bubel, and that will be my guide.

We have a 150-year old house with a large concrete box in the basement. The bottom of the box is dirt. I suspect this was a root cellar at one time. I believe we would need to put some fresh sand in the bottom, mouse-proof it with some hardware cloth, and cover the box with an insulated lid. Does the food need to be packed in sand also?

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catherine_nm

I have also read "Root Cellaring." If I had a basement, I would have a root cellar as we speak, but my 70 year old house is on a crawl space that I can't get into during the winter. I have considered a clamp on the north side of the house during the winter, but so far haven't done it.

What I have done is plant a winter garden on the south side of the house in July and August, bury it with about a foot of pine straw in November, cover with a low tunnel at Thanksgiving, and pull root crops and kale from the garden all winter. Oh, and in the fall before first frost I pull the tomato plants and hang them in my pantry. Then I pick tomatoes as they ripen until after Thanksgiving. In fact, I had a few at Christmas last year with that simple treatment. My fall and winter harvesting techniques are working so well that a root cellar is no longer that important to us.

Catherine

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 6:47PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

Wow wish they had put in a nice box like that in my basement

I heard you should pack carrots in sand

In my basment it stays 45-60 depending on outside temp and I still have lots of onions hanging from the ceiling pumpkins near the floor and potatoes and good in april as the day they went in there

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 7:47PM
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david52_gw

We find it more convenient to put different root crops in huge tree-size nursery pots, I suppose any plastic bin would do. Fresh peat moss or potting soil works well in place of sand, and weighs a lot less. Store in a cool place, they do just fine. We use an an attached, insulated store room that gets down to around 40º in the coldest part of winter. It also holds all the canning.

I dunno if you have to do it, but we pour a qt of water now and again on top the bins. But we live in a very dry climate.

By this time of year, everything is sprouting - carrots, beets, potatoes, but there really isn't much left.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 9:50PM
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zuni(5a)

Catherine, I am intrigued by your treatment of tomatoes.ow cool is your pantry?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 10:38PM
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catherine_nm

Hi, Zuni

My pantry is a formerly unheated enclosed back porch. My washer is there now, so I have to keep it above freezing all winter, but actually I'd say it is about 50-60 F most of the time. I've also hung cherry toms in the kitchen, where they ripen nicely, so I don't think the cool temp of the pantry is really necessary.

I have used this technique with Long Keeper tomatoes (http://store.tomatofest.com/Long_Keeper_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0294.htm), but I had a much better tasting one called Amber Colored that kept just about as long, so that is my choice these days.

Hanging the tomato plants from the roots is a technique my mom learned from an old farm neighbor years ago. These days I trim all of the leaves off the plants before I bring them in so they don't shed all over my laundry room. It doesn't seem to affect the ripening/keeping quality.

Catherine

Here is a link that might be useful: Amber Colored Tomato

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 11:38AM
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vic01(z4MN)

Growing up my parents had a "fruit cellar" in the basement, small room where all canned goods were stored plus carrots in baskets of sand, potatoes, green tomatoes wrapped in newspaper. This room had a door and one tiny window so it could be opened but usually wasn't in the winter. I would say that room stayed a lot cooler than the rest of the basement, above freezing but cool enough to keep the vegetables through the winter. Just memories of a child but it seemed to work fine.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 9:17AM
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mockturtle

Anyone in California have a root cellar?
Is it possible?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 2:28AM
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GrannyBee

I forgot that I'd put some pots under the plexiglass cover of an exit window from the basement. I went to put a seed tray out there, and discovered that three of the five pots had thriving plants. This was a pleasant surprise after a particularly nasty Wisconsin winter. I looked over some of the root cellar discussion on this site, and am wondering if this window well would serve as a root cellar or tomato pot storage, per the discussion on this forum from last spring. Nobody is using the basement room as a bedroom and the exit is of secondary importance now. It has three steps up, and is on the south side of the house.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 11:22AM
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