Tips on How to use a Root Cellar

It’s the end of the growing season for most of us so its time to plan how to properly store your garden produce.

Many people can and freeze produce but a root cellar is another practical and economical way to store food.

Here are tips to ensure to ensure that your fruits and vegetables survive storage.

1.  Stock your cellar as late in the season as you can. For me, in my zone 5 climate, this is late September and October. If possible, chill the produce in the fridge before putting it in the cellar.

2.  A few vegetables—such as potatoes, winter squashes, and onions—need to be “cured” for a few days in warm temperatures before going into cold storage. To cure, remove from soil and let set in a shady area such as a porch. Do not let the crop set in direct hot sunlight.

3.  Shake off loose dirt rather than washing it off. Many root–cellar vegetables store better this way. When you are ready to use, then remove the final layer of dirt.

4.  Handle your vegetables with care. Vegetables do bruise and these bruises will start the produce on the road to decomposition.

5.  Store cabbages and turnips in a detached root cellar so their odor, which can be unpleasant, will not permeate the house.

6.  Remember that the driest, warmest air is near the ceiling; more-humid air is lower as well as farthest from the door. So crops that need a dry environment will do better up higher and crops that do well in a more humid air will do better near the floor.

7.  Most fruit “breathes” and should be wrapped in paper to retard the release of ethylene gas. Two examples are apples and pears.

8.  Making a root cellar in a garage or using pressure-treated wood is not recommended. A cellar is really the best location. In ground rooms also work well.

9.  Vegetables piled together generate heat, which can lead to spoilage. Put on shelves close to the floor and rotate.

10. Check your vegetables regularly, and immediately remove any with signs of rot.

11. You may have to watch for mice depending on the type of root cellar you have.

Try these techniques whether you harvest your own or buy your produce at a farmer’s market. You may wish to start with just a few vegetables and see if this form of storage works for you.

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Denise

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