Steve suffering in NJ asked about root cellars last week. I’ve fiddled around with this a bit, so I’m going to share some of what I’ve learned. But I’m going to keep it simple, if you want to get into the nitty gritty details, I can’t recommend highly enough, “Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables” by the Bubels. Seriously, they go into the size of your air ducts and calculating the area of your storage. It’s deep.
But, today, some general thoughts. The three things to keep in mind are Temp, Light and Humidity. Know what you want to store in advance and work towards those specific storage needs. Because not every vegetable likes the same storage temps.
Potatoes are a good one for root cellars. They need cold, dark and dry. 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit (2-4 degrees Celsius.) And by dark, I mean black out curtains. DON’T wash the spuds before storage. Lay them in a ventilated container and put layers of newspaper between the layers. If they are damp from your garden or farm, let them cure/dry for a few days in a dark warm place. So, find yourself a dark corner of your basement that doesn’t have windows or damp problems. If you can partition the area off, with some insulation and light blocking, do that. I’m lucky enough to have a whole room in the basement of my current house that’s cold and dry. So I just have to shut the door to isolate it.
If you know you want to store carrots instead of potatoes, you’ll want a dark cold and damp place. Store the carrots in damp sand. If you need to add humidity to an area, I’ve heard of people having good luck with some large ceramic pot bases, filled with rocks and water.
Know your priorities and stick to them, if you try too hard to make one place work for all vegetables, it will work poorly for all vegetables.
Shelving is nice, go for sturdy. Root vegetables are generally heavy. Baskets and crates and stacks of newspapers are always handy. But keep things clean and orderly, don’t go all hoarder on it and end up killing yourself because you broke your neck tripping over the shit in the poorly lit root cellar
That reminds me, for all that you have to deny sunlight any entry, you also have to include artificial light in order to see properly and use the space wisely and frequently.
Anyone else have some sage advice about root cellaring? Pass it along to Steve and the rest of us in the comments!
– Calamity Jane