TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL ROOT CELLARING.
Before the development of freezers and canning technologies, root cellars were the primary method of storing end-of-season produce. Hearty fruits and vegetables may still be effectively and economically stored in root cellars.
A root cellar is a room that maintains a temperature between 35 and 50°F and is often underground but at the very least sheltered from the outdoors. In other words, temperatures in a refrigerator are always far above freezing but never warm.
Although they are sometimes referred to as “root cellars,” these cool-temperature storage spaces are helpful for more than just root crops. They work well for preserving several varieties of tree fruit as well as tough crops like cabbage and cauliflower (especially apples and pears, but also quinces, citrus, and others).
Types of root cellars range from the basic “clamp” and basement kinds I’m going to explain here to properly built chambers with hygrometers installed to monitor humidity and adjustable vents plus fans on timers (see Useful Resources for root cellar designs from simple to state of the art).
The four components of cold storage—temperature, humidity, ventilation, and darkness—are what they all take care of in common.
Traditional root cellar designs might be quite simple, consisting of nothing more than deep pits excavated in the ground, a pipe or tube for ventilation, and a layer of soil, straw, or both put on top of the food within.
Although contemporary root cellars often have concrete floors, a dirt floor was formerly the ideal surface for the cellar’s bottom.
By the way, unless you wall off a corner and build vents at the bottom and top that feed directly to outside air, most contemporary basements are much too warm to be utilized as root cellars.
SUCCESSFUL ROOT CELLARING GUIDELINES
It’s not quite as easy as storing a lot of fruits and vegetables in a cold, dark spot with appropriate humidity and airflow to call a root cellar. Although it isn’t difficult, you must include the following maintenance procedures into your root cellar.
root cellar upkeep.
Before storing them in the basement, harvest vegetables, particularly root vegetables, as late in the season as feasible. When handling food that you want to cellar, use extreme caution. Scratches and bruises of any size may quickly deteriorate.
Root vegetables should only be brushed clean of dirt before being placed in cold storage.
Before they can be kept in a root cellar, several foods—including potatoes, winter squash, pumpkins, onions, shallots, and garlic—need to dry out or “cure.” To do this, keep them out of direct light for a few days or even up to two weeks at a warmish ambient temperature before moving them to cold storage.
Before placing any produce in cold storage, give it a thorough inspection.
When kept alongside other products, those that have bruises, skin cracks, or other flaws may cause the other products to decay.
Have you ever heard the proverb that says “one bad apple spoils the bunch”? It is real! Regularly inspect the fruits and vegetables you’ve stored in the basement, and take out any that have mold, brown spots, or other symptoms of deterioration.
But don’t toss them away. There is certainly a ton of undamaged food there that may be saved for immediate consumption, dehydrating, creating chutney, and other uses.
BEST VEGETABLES AND APPLES FOR CELLARING Apple Beets
- Cabbage \Carrots
- licorice root (celeriac)
- Endive \Grapefruit
- Israeli artichoke (sunchoke)
- Israeli artichoke (sunchoke)
- Kohlrabi \Leek
- Lemon \Orange
- Pear \Persimmon \Potato \Quince \Radish \Rutabaga
- Potatoes sweet, turnips
When vegetables are heaped high, the heat they produce might lead to deterioration. Try to keep your food in single or minimal layers, and change them out every two weeks.
Fruits like apples, pears, and others should be kept apart from vegetables while storing.
They should also be paper-wrapped loosely and separately. Both of these pieces of advice are given in order to stop nearby items from rapidly ripening or going bad due to the ethylene gas that fruits generate.
Brassicas, such as turnips and cabbage, should be kept apart from other meals and away from your house.
There isn’t due to spoiling issues, but rather to the sulfur compounds present in this group of veggies, which may produce an unpleasant rotten egg odor (they still taste great when cooked, but you didn’t really want your living room to smell like the Wicked Witch of the West, did you?).
Reminder: You shouldn’t keep your canned foods in your root cellar. Jars used for home canning need a cold, dry atmosphere. Canning lids may get unsealed by a root cellar’s high relative humidity.
Onions, shallots, and garlic, however, do best in the chilly, dry climate that home-canned items need. Unlike the majority of fruits and vegetables, those Allium species shouldn’t be kept in a root cellar’s high humidity. Your sealed food jars and those bulb veggies will both last longer if they are kept in a cold, dark, dry pantry.
If your house doesn’t have one, give the cool and dark places priority (a hallway closet will work). In your root cellar, if you need to store onions, shallots, or garlic, keep in mind that the highest levels and the areas furthest from the entrance or opening will have the driest air.
Two Quite Basic Root Cellars
THE CELLAR FOR CONTAINER
This is a simple but very efficient method for creating a root cellar using just a piece of pipe and a big, waterproof container (old stand-alone freezers and wooden barrels work great).
It is excellent for freezing both apples of the storage kind and root vegetables but keep in mind not to freeze them together (the apples could cause the veggies to spoil).
Start by excavating a hole that is 6 inches deeper and 2 to 4 inches broader than the width of your container. Place the container’s lid end into the hole. Make a hole in the lid that can accommodate a pipe with a diameter of 12 to 34 inch.
Use a long stick or the handle of a shovel to compress the soil down firmly between the container and the hole’s sidewalls.
Start by putting your apples or veggies in the container, alternating each layer of food with a layer of straw. Place a thick layer of straw at the bottom of the container.
Make an effort to distribute the food such that no pieces contact one another.
Add a pipe pointing straight up in the middle of the container when it is two-thirds filled, then keep piling food and straw all the way around it.
Finish with straw covering. The pipe must be long enough to protrude 3 inches above the covered root cellar and extend a third of the way down into the layers of food and straw.
Put the lid on the container with the pipe poking out of it. Extruded polystyrene foam that is 2-inches thick should be cut into two or more pieces that are large enough to cover the lid and extend a few inches beyond its edge. Avoid covering the pipe.
Cut a piece of 3/4-inch-thick plywood to a size that is about equal to the width of the foam pieces. On the plywood, make a hole in the middle for the pipe. Place the plywood over the pipe, then add some weight to it with stones.
It’s possible that this is how cold storage was originally designed. Undoubtedly, it has been in use for many ages. In reality, it’s basically a mound of insulated root veggies with minor ventilation considerations. Although a clamp is simple, it works in all regions outside of those with the worst winters.
You may “clamp” any root vegetable that qualifies for cold storage.
For cold storage, it’s crucial to constantly remove spoiled produce, although
Veggies that are damaged must always be removed before cold storage, but this is truer with this procedure since the vegetables will be piled on top of one another. Remove any very little veggies that could wither in a clamp as well.
Straw should be spread out in an 8-inch-deep layer straight on the ground in a long, rectangular region. Place your sorted vegetables in a steep pile on top of the straw, aiming for an about 35-inch-high pile.
Work in horizontal straw tunnels that pierce the heap and extend just a little beyond it as you lay down the foundation of the mound of root vegetables.
One straw tunnel should be present for every two feet (horizontally) of the clamp. The mound of root vegetables should have these tubes at the bottom. Additionally, build vertical straw chimneys at the top of the vegetable pile at 2-foot intervals. The straw chimneys and tunnels will be used to release gases and extra moisture from the food storage pile.
Add another 6 to 8 inches of straw to the whole mound before adding 6 to 8 inches of soil on top of that. Make sure to keep the straw chimneys and tunnels’ ends exposed so that air may pass through them.
Use the back of a shovel or your hands to firmly pack the dirt layer down. Once the earth has been compacted, measure the 6 to 8 inches.
Overlay the straw chimneys with hefty planks or flat pebbles. Rain won’t be able to enter, but air will still be able to exit from them.
Select a location close to the earth on the side of the mound when it’s time to get some of the food that’s been stored in your clamp. To cut through the topsoil and straw layers, use a hand instrument like a trowel.
Grab what you need from the veggie pile using your hand. Add more straw to the hole you just dug, and then cover it with 6 to 8 inches of compacted earth.