Saturday, April 13, 2013

Root Cellaring In the Home

     I already have tomatoes coming to fruit.  I started seeds early and transplanted them after six weeks into large outdoor containers.  I will soon be up to my elbows in tomatoes.  This is a good thing because I am planning for the produce that comes from the work.  My son has planted his early garden and is eating his way through to a healthy new self.  Next season he too will have to plan for the fruit and veg he can't eat.  Root cellaring starts at home!

     Root cellars, no matter what they look like or how they are made, are created to keep vegetables safe until they are needed.  The need for vegetable storage may not be so great today as it will be when your packed bulk foods are gone and you are farming to live.  

Colonial food storage in the home
     Root cellars were built to temperature and humidity.  Most people think only of the need to keep the harvest from freezing or getting too hot in summer, but if you don't check the humidity, all you will achieve is rot and ruin.  Florida is famous for it's humidity.  It isn't the heat the tourists complain about, it's the humidity. 
     Before you go digging in the yard, let's explore those dead spaces we have talked about in the past.  A crawl space under a house is usually a dry place.  Foundations are set so that water runs off and does not float the home.  Crawl spaces in Florida are going to be hot so insulation is needed to keep your space cooler.   One of my sons has a large crawl space to accommodate access to the air conditioner and heat that was put into his home possibly in the 70s.  He will be able to dig out some of the base and shore up the home creating a deeper storage area, so he can stand up.  He plans to put in a root cellar about six feet by eight feet by six feet high.  You will have to crawl past the ancient machinery to find it.  But he believes it will be dry, and when insulated, never reach more than 78 degrees in summer. 
     Here are some places  you may not have thought of that would be good cellaring spots.  

  This is a wall facing an office
with shelving for storage on the
 unseen studs. 
     It is also possible to use some attic crawl space for food storage with adequate insulation.  I cannot recommend a double roof or adding to the exterior in any way for vegetable storage.  The less your neighbors see of your home changing shape, the better.  However, if you can insulate the attic and finish the interior walls, you may be able to use that space for a bedroom or lookout and turn a small room or closet in the interior of the home into a vegetable storage area.  A large interior pantry with produce storage capability will cut down on the number of times you need to go out to the cache to resupply, should you find yourself holed up at home.  

     When root cellaring anywhere, especially in the home, you may have to adjust your thinking a bit.  A squash doesn't just sit on the shelf or rack until you need it.  You may have to use a large plastic bin in wooden box to line with straw if you need insulation or sand to keep the root vegetables at a constant temperature.  You do NOT want the smell of rot to tip off the neighbors to your food stores.  Mature fruits and vegetables contain an amount of water when newly harvested.  Keep them at room temperature, a little warm for 10 days to two weeks to dry them a bit.  Wrap them in paper or nestle them in straw to keep them from touching.  Store them in your cool dry winter store room.

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