Vegetable and Fruit Hideaways: Root Cellar Redux

I don’t have a root cellar in my house (yet!), so I’ve been particularly intrigued by the chapter entitled “Trenches, Keeping-Closets and Other Vegetable and Fruit Hideaways” in Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel. (Someday I will return this book to the public library and let someone else have a turn.)

The chapter covers both outdoor and indoor methods of storing food. Outdoor methods include burying a barrel or creating a dirt mound, and insulating with straw, leaves or similar materials.  Indoor methods involve sussing out unheated areas of you home: attics, porches, unheated guest bedrooms.  Keep in mind that you are looking for a variety of types of spaces – cold and damp for root vegetables, cool and dry for onions and garlic, somewhat warmer and dry for squash.

So, now I’m on a mission to turn the cold and underused spaces in my house into vegetable storage empires!!

The possibilities at my house include:
– an unheated front porch
– an unheated back porch
– an unheated basement

The first step will be to put thermometers in those rooms.  They get really cold in the winter, but I don’t know if the temperature drops below zero.

I’ve been storing apples, potatoes,and  squash in the back porch all fall.  In general, it’s going well; however, I did lose a few small pumpkins early on.  Perhaps they weren’t properly cured, as the butternut squash have been doing just fine.

Back Porch Food Storage

Under my back stairs

So, here’s my challenge to you.  Do you have a storage spot in your home?  Have you ever stored veggies there?  Or would you be willing to try?  If so, leave a comment below and tell us about it!

(And if you don’t have a storage spot indoors, but you do have a backyard, please tell Keltie.  She got inspired by the outdoor methods and is desperate to dig a hole somewhere. 🙂 )

Yours in Food,

12 thoughts on “Vegetable and Fruit Hideaways: Root Cellar Redux

  1. You may also want to see what your humidity levels are in addition to temperatures as that is a particularly important factor on storing, e.g. root vegetables.

    I am fortunate enough to have 2 storage places: a root cellar where I store potatoes, carrots and parsnips if I have enough – the cellar is on the property where I live in the summer & visit throughout the year (we had potatoes from the cellar last easter, same firm condition as when they were stored); then I bring half the produce home & store in plastic buckets, in sawdust, in our basement. In winter it’s around 4C degrees and quite humid – although not ideal, but sufficient to keep them for a few months. Squash I’ve kept successfully for several months by keeping them in a cool, unheated hallway. As to parsnips, I’ve found they taste incredibly sweet if kept overwinter in the ground, then pulled early in spring.

  2. There is a set of stairs under the deck that goes into the cellar. The bottom of this short stairwell is well below the ground and just needs a temporary roof to insulate it from freezing air. I think it’ll be great for roots and I can access it through the cellar door.

    • Same here, Pat. The outside stairwell to the cellar is now insulated (foam so it is lightweight) and boxes on the bottom steps are also insulated (newspaper 3″ deep on all 6 sides of each box). I just open the inside door and there all the boxes are on the steps like shelves. Access from outside is rarely if ever needed during the winter, but if necessary it is easy to move the boxes. (The basement itself is heated, alas)

    • Hi I don’t live in a house but a Mobile Home and have 2 sheds on the lot where we live I was wondering how to change the storage barn shed into a Root cellar, We have insulated it and now I am putting in a vapor lock between the insulation and the dry wall. I was thinking of putting in 1/2 inch foam around some wood boxes for the storage bins along the side walls and across the back of the shed. How can I make this work for me by the end of the growing season of 2015 as we moved onto the lot on May 30th of this year not enough time for a garden this year so am trying to get ready for next year now.

  3. The issue with the Bubel book is that it is almost entirely suited to an American audience (there are some Canadian-specific items). Up here I think you need to find where the frost line is and put your produce below it or it will freeze. And thaw. And freeze. I recall that Owen Bridge had success burying things in a hole lined and lidded with lots and lots of straw.

    Another suggestion from that book are those deep recessed windows in people’s basements, they can be insulated and still remain quite cool even if the basement is heated.

  4. I cured my pumpkins on top of my fridge but never put them anywhere cooler after the first few weeks and now they are getting mold-spots.

  5. The front entrance to my place is an enclosed room without any heat, and I always looked at it as a problem since it brought down the temperature of my bedroom, which shares all wall with it. Only recently did it dawn on me that it’s a perfect cold room! Funny since I have been thinking of cold rooms quite a bit during the past couple months, as I’ve been helping a friend build one in the valley. But I didn’t see the cold room that was right under my very nose until a friend pointed it out!

    The timing was perfect, because a few days later I made a big batch of kimchi, which I know is infamous for funking up your entire fridge. So now I have my mason jars full of fermenting cabbage/radishes in a box neatly tucked away in my newly discovered cold room. Looking forward to building up more of a winter stock and lighten the burden of the ol’ energy intensive fridge.

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  8. I enjoyed reading about your making of a Root Cellar but am trying to figure out how to turn our Storage Barn into an above ground Root Cellar can you help us?

    • Sorry, I don’t have any advice for you on this. A standard root cellar works precisely because it’s underground – this keeps it cool, but above freezing. I’d recommend reading the book “Root Cellaring” by Mike and Nancy Bubel.

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