Tuesday, September 28, 2021 by Divina Ramirez
Before modern refrigeration came about, an underground root cellar was the best way to store produce, such as carrots, turnips and other root vegetables, and keep them fresh for long periods of time. This simple but effective structure has stood the test of time and continues to be used by those who grow their own food.
Technically, a root cellar is any storage location that takes advantage of the cooling and insulating properties of the earth. It’s ideal for storing fresh produce, as well as jars of canned or pickled vegetables and the bulbs of fresh flowers. Some people also use root cellars to store homemade alcoholic drinks, like wine and beer.
Aside from keeping your foods fresh, a root cellar also gives you peace of mind in that you know you’ll never lack food or be at the mercy of grocery stores in case of shortages or disasters.
Read on for tips on building your own root cellar: (h/t to CommonSenseHome.com)
To build a successful root cellar, you’ll have to take these factors into account:
As fruits like apples and pears ripen, they emit ethylene gas. Ethylene gas can decrease the shelf life of foods by causing sprouting, yellowing and shrinking. Root cellars are usually located underground or in basements, where fresh air can’t easily get in and stale air can’t easily get out.
To prevent spoilage caused by ethylene gas, put fruits and vegetables that emit ethylene gas away from produce that absorb the gas. You should also consider installing vents in your root cellar so that air can circulate without simultaneously raising the temperature.
2. Packed earth or gravel floor
Most root cellars have a packed earth or gravel floor instead of a concrete or wooden one. That’s mainly because soil and gravel can insulate the space better and keep it at a cool temperature.
Additionally, they help keep the humidity level in the cellar high.
3. High humidity
Try to maintain high humidity levels in your root cellar. The moisture in the air is what keeps fruits and vegetables, which contain water, from drying out.
However, humid air can cause canning jar lids to rust. If you want to store canned or pickled vegetables in your root cellar, be prepared to routinely check the lids and rotate your stock. (Related: Fruits and vegetables to store in your root cellar.)
Light can cause produce to sprout. This is when the seeds or roots of a fruit or vegetable grow even after it has been harvested. In most cases, sprouting causes the fruit or vegetable to take on an unpleasant bitter flavor.
To keep things nice and dark, cover any windows in your root cellar and avoid leaving the light on.
5. Shelves or containers
Wooden shelves and storage bins conduct heat more slowly than metal and don’t rust. Just avoid treated wood, and stick to those that are naturally rot-resistant.
Root cellars come in many shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most common ones:
Here are some important tips to remember when storing food in a root cellar:
Learn about the fruits and vegetables you can store in your root cellar at FoodStorage.news.
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