Makeshift root cellar

A root cellar ranks high on our garden-related wish list.  A well-designed root cellar would maintain temperatures and humidity ideal for storing much of the food we harvest in the summer and early fall and eat throughout the winter, including potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and squash.

Until we have a place of our own to garden and implement an “official” root cellar, we’re working with what we’ve got.  Until this year, that mainly involved basements — at Matthew’s mom’s house and at our apartment.  However, due to heat bleed-off from furnaces and duct work, most basements are actually warmer than ideal for root cellaring, and ours, with two (and in previous years, four) furnaces and duct work for two (or four) units is certainly no exception.

Once cold weather settled in for the season, we realized that the coldest place in our apartment was the front stairwell, just inside the front door.  We put a thermometer down there and discovered temperatures in the mid-50s (versus the 60-some-degree basement).

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While it’s not the most elegant storage solution, the space we’re using is more or less behind the door, so it’s out of the way.

The crate is full of potatoes, covered to prevent light damage.  It’s important to go through and de-eye the potatoes every couple of weeks.  We’ve had some that store better than others, but even the ones with rather shriveled skins taste good, they’re just a bit more work to clean.

The sweet potatoes at our place are a few steps up, in paper bags, though the bulk of our harvest of sweet potatoes and squash is still out at my MIL’s.

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We bought a bushel (about 50 pounds) of organic apples on our way to Iowa for Thanksgiving.  While they would keep better at cooler temps (like in the super-insulated straw bale building at the orchard), this was an okay compromise — there was no way we could fit them in the refrigerator.  Gabriel will often walk in the door, pick up an apple from the box, and take a bite, clearly indicating what he would like for a snack.

We’ve eaten or dried many of the apples.  The remaining apples have good flavor, but the texture is definitely best for cooking or drying at this point.

When we discovered our uninvited guests (of which we just found another a few days ago, argh!), I feared that they would be all too happy to invade our “root cellar,” but that hasn’t been the case (knock on wood).

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6 Responses to Makeshift root cellar

  1. Hi Melissa! We use old wicker suitcases (lidded baskets) and lidded picnic baskets that we pick up at tag sales. They stack really well, and are vented. Something to keep an eye out for, anyway. Great post! Thanks.

    • Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Great idea — we’d need really big baskets for some of our squash varieties, but we do have some smaller squash, not to mention the potatoes and sweet potatoes. We have some wooden crates, but the gaps are too big for storing most things.

  2. Rachel says:

    I did not know about picking the eyes off of the potatoes. Good tip. I have a box that my parents brought me from their garden that need to be de-eyed now!

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