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mtnviewsteve
02-20-2009, 06:19 PM
:cool:
http://www.gardensimply.com/articles/vegetables/veg7.shtml
Using Root Cellars to Preserve Vegetables

With cold weather upon us, everyone should be working to save your harvest, either by storing or preserving. Canning, drying, and freezing, are good ways of preserving your crops such as beans, corn, peas, peppers, summer squash, and tomatoes. They need to be done immediately after picking, while crops are fresh and tasty. Whether you cold-store or preserve your produce depends on the type of food you’ve grown, your facilities, and your family’s eating preferences. A good website for learning to preserve your vegetables is Homestead Harvest.

Cold storage of vegetables such as cabbage, beets, carrots, potatoes, squash, and turnips can give you the best tasting and healthiest food of the four methods, and may even be the least expensive in the long run. And you can eat every one of these garden-fresh even 4 to 6 months after they’ve been harvested! However it requires some careful preparation, so let’s discuss how best to prepare for and store your fall harvest.

If your garden is very small and you don’t have much to store, you may be able to use an old refrigerator, or a barrel buried in the back yard. However, for those who are serious about providing fresh food for your families, I recommend a root cellar, either under the house or buried outside. You can set it into the side of a hill or dig a hole 4’ to 5’ deep in a corner of the yard, build the cellar, and cover it with the excess dirt. This will help insulate it and maintain the low, but not freezing temperatures you need. Provide yourself a small door and insulate it well. A 6’-tall 4’ X 6’ root cellar built under the crawl space in a home with no basement will work. This same size will work buried in your yard. A wooden floor is optional, and at least half the space may be better left open to the soil beneath.

Harvest your crops at peak maturity and store only those which are free of disease or damage. Don’t harvest for storage until late fall, since more starches are converted to sugars by the cool weather. Root crops should be picked fresh and stored immediately. Potatoes and squash, on the other hand, first need to be cured at 60-75 degrees for 7 to 14 days. Most produce should be stored at just above freezing temperatures, except winter squash, which does better at or above 50 degrees.

Your root crops will stay fresh and sweet for months if you harvest them with roots intact and pack them in wet sawdust. Cabbage and other brassicas also need their roots. Remove outer leaves, then pack the roots in wet sawdust, leaving the cabbage exposed. Provide separation between crops to avoid mixing flavors, and to keep squash dry.

Potatoes should not be as wet as the root crops. They will do well in temperatures below 40 degrees, but pack them in moist, rather than wet sawdust. Peat moss and sand, or combinations of all three, can be substituted for straight sawdust, but are not as ideal. I recommend you work with your neighbors to find a sawmill and obtain a truckload.

Onions and garlic also store well. they can handle cold temperatures but, like winter squash, they do better with humidity only 60 to 70 percent. Therefore these should be up off the damp floor, on shelves or hung from the ceiling. A cold basement can also work, but be sure to provide separation from living areas to avoid their strong smell.

Remember, cold temperatures are essential for good long-term storage of vegetables, but do not let them freeze! Insulate your root cellar well. Good healthy eating to you!
:cool:

Michael Walsh
02-20-2009, 06:32 PM
Thanks, Steve. My little, sloped, dirt-floor basement may come in handy yet.

DaBee
02-20-2009, 06:49 PM
There had been a root cellar on this homestead, but the "junkers" that lived here before filled it with their trash, then covered the whole thing in dirt. It's now a mound with no clue of its previous life. I would love to have a root cellar, but don't think I'll be digging it myself. Maybe it's worth a look into as far as basic structure and cost is concerned. Thanks for the thoughts, Steve.
I've been freezing everything until now. The electricity being off cured me of counting on that. It's sickening to see all of your hard work turn to mush. So.....I'm in the market for jars and lids and canning supplies if someone has an overload or just doesn't want to mess with it any more.

Murphette
02-20-2009, 07:15 PM
We have an old storm shelter, half below ground level with dirt mounded on the upper half. Unless there's some obvious reason against using it for a root cellar, I'll need to know just how cold it gets in there.

Another Texan
02-20-2009, 08:12 PM
Does outdoor fruit/veggie drying work in these parts or is the summertime humidity too high? I remember a set-up my granny had in Tx, it was two wooden window screens with another mesh piece in between all set on top of saw horses. She used it to dry figs.

SpikeSilverback
02-21-2009, 01:11 AM
These are all great suggestions and ones that everyone should pursue for good
storage and secure food resources. But I'd like to add that good food doesn't begin at harvest. It begins before planting. Growing mediocre food only stores
less than mediocre food. Until you have a balanced soil growing high brix, high mineral foods, you will not have the best nutritional values. Your body is going to want more and your mind is going produce less. Doing it the old way may be noble, but surely it is more ignorant.

Spike

DaBee
02-21-2009, 02:30 PM
What do you mean "doing it the old way"?
deb

Eureka Animal Precinct
02-21-2009, 09:45 PM
Can you elaborate on a root cellar? I am built into the mt. I have half a basement; the other half being a crawl space. Do I need to construct a "room" for veggies, or can I just store them in boxes?

Eureka Animal Precinct
02-21-2009, 09:48 PM
Does outdoor fruit/veggie drying work in these parts or is the summertime humidity too high? I remember a set-up my granny had in Tx, it was two wooden window screens with another mesh piece in between all set on top of saw horses. She used it to dry figs.
That in the low humidity days of August this method works well for apples and such. I am going to try to do this by putting the screens on top of my metal roofed chicken house.

SpikeSilverback
02-21-2009, 11:36 PM
What do you mean "doing it the old way"?
deb

Apologies DB. Shuda read..."Growing" it the old way may be noble, but surely it is more ignorant.

Just throwing stuff at the soil and expecting it to produce is "ignorant". There are enough tools in the toolbox now to evaluate what you have and how to make adjustments without guessing. We don't have a lot of time to"play"
gardening. The storage component, in general, works good but one should have stores worthy to store. Storing crap is still stored crap. You might be to able to survive on it, but your physical and mental activities will be diminished. And in these times, one does not need diminishment.

Spike

SpikeSilverback
02-22-2009, 12:03 AM
Can you elaborate on a root cellar? I am built into the mt. I have half a basement; the other half being a crawl space. Do I need to construct a "room" for veggies, or can I just store them in boxes?

Not really.Never had one. However, given the history of preservation,
the three keywords are cool,dark and dry. Given that, you are miles ahead.
Evaluate your space for those parameters. If it fits, fine. If not, change one or all.

The second component is the quality of the plant that was grown that you are storing. Poor soil. Poor plant. Foods grown in a balanced and highly mineralized soil have a measurable keeping quality as measured by brix (sugar).

Concentrate on raising good healthy foods and the storage will come naturally.

If I had one warning, and there are others I proly haven't come upon for storage, I'd be mindful of storing apples with any foods unless you want to hasten ripening. see ethylene gas http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_gas_makes_apples_ripen_really_fast
Best to keep them separated, sell em, give em away or make a whole lotta pies.

Spike

Spike

SpikeSilverback
02-22-2009, 12:06 AM
Can you elaborate on a root cellar? I am built into the mt. I have half a basement; the other half being a crawl space. Do I need to construct a "room" for veggies, or can I just store them in boxes?

Not really.Never had one. However, given the history of preservation,
the three keywords are cool,dark and dry. Given that, you are miles ahead.
Evaluate your space for those parameters. If it fits, fine. If not, change one or all.

The second component is the quality of the plant that was grown that you are storing. Poor soil. Poor plant. Foods grown in a balanced and highly mineralized soil have a measurable keeping quality as measured by brix (sugar).

Concentrate on raising good healthy foods and the storage will come naturally.

If I had one warning, and there are others I proly haven't come upon for storage, I'd be mindful of storing apples with any foods unless you want to hasten ripening. see ethylene gas http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_gas_makes_apples_ripen_really_fast
Best to keep them separated, sell em, give em away or make a whole lotta pies.

Spike

MotherMoon12
02-22-2009, 12:07 AM
And do what with the pies? I would think apples properly stored would last a lot longer and be healthier than pies.

SpikeSilverback
02-22-2009, 12:22 AM
And do what with the pies? I would think apples properly stored would last a lot longer and be healthier than pies.

Eat em, of course. Cause after you sell em or give em away, all you have
left is to make a pie. The point is that apples give off ethylene gas and effect
everything around them. If you want to manage that, fine. Store em.

And if you want to store em, they'll keep a very very long time when grown in an optimum soil. I'd submit that if grown in an optimum soil, they'll last indefinetly as a food source, even dried to the core. Ala jerky.

Spike

Becky Davis
02-22-2009, 02:05 AM
For those of you with little space and still would like to grow something, here is an idea,
Buy a bag of soil. Do not open it. On one side punch holes for drainage. On the other side, cut out four or six hole the size of saucers. You can use a saucer to trace the holes with a magic marker. Cut them out, discard. Next, plant whatever in the holes. Water and watch them grow.
I have only used this for tomatoes, but imagine anything would work. It was very successful. I had it on a deck and tied my stalks to my railing.
Be sure and have plenty of drain holes. Water through your saucer holes.
At the end of the growing season, you will have a bag full of roots. Toss it on the compost. Not the plastic of course.

Becky Davis
02-22-2009, 03:39 AM
I have a dirt floor basement. So I still need to dig a hole and put the veggies in it?
Also, I know some of the houses in eureka have those caves behind them. could you store in them? I think early eurekans used the for refrigerators? There are quite a few in town.

Becky Davis
02-22-2009, 09:45 AM
Don't yall find it more expensive to can food than buy it? That is quite a while ago for me, but why I quit doing it.

Westwood
02-22-2009, 10:16 PM
"Putting Food By"

I've used this book since the 70's for preserving food. Drying, canning, freezing, root cellaring, curing, it has it all. And it's updated to keep up with USDA recommendations.

http://www.amazon.com/Putting-Food-Plume-Janet-Greene/dp/0452268990

Another Texan
02-23-2009, 06:25 AM
Isn't there a lot of water seepage into basements/root cellars/storm shelters in this area? I've spoken with folks that have each and all have drainage issues where at times water comes in. Is there an economical way to retro fit, to keep them dry year round?

Michael Walsh
02-23-2009, 08:16 AM
A book on Root Cellaring is here:

http://www.amazon.com/Root-Cellaring-Natural-Storage-Vegetables/dp/0882667033/ref=pd_sim_b_1