RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—If you're having a good year in the garden, have you thought about what you'll do with your harvest? Digging your own root cellar would give you the perfect place to store the bounty from your garden, or the seasonal bargains from your local farmer's market. If that sounds like too much work, don't worry: you can also find suitable space in your home, and have it ready for food storage in a matter of hours.
Root cellars, an often-ignored option for food preservation, are one of the easiest ways to store fresh, local food and save a few bucks in the process, says Barbara Salsbury, author of Beating the High Cost of Eating: The Essential Guide to Supermarket Survival (Horizon, 2005). She converted an old closet near her kitchen into a makeshift root cellar, and uses it all winter. “When good yams, cabbage, and carrots, are cheap, I buy three pounds,” she says. “When there’s a sale on squash, I buy several, and they will last for an age.”
Produce stored in a root cellar can last anywhere from a few weeks for perishables like tomatoes and watermelon to months or more for root vegetables, apples, and onions. The good news: No matter where you live, there’s a good chance you have a potential root cellar undiscovered somewhere in your home. There are essentially four key factors in a successful cool-storage operation: