Root Cellars can Help You to Eat Well During the Winter.

Yesterday I spent the day with a friend who was raised in Finland and is near my age.  He and I talked about the use of root cellars and what foods they had available in the winter.  They raised most of their vegetables in green houses, so they could get a jump on their short summers.

In the summer they had a fairly wide selection of vegetables, however in the winter they had a very limited selection.  They mainly had what could be stored in their root cellars.  This consisted mostly of potatoes, carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips, cabbage, onions and for fruit, apples.  They kept these in a root cellar.  Prior to refrigeration a root cellar was used to store food over the winter and to help keep food cool in the summer.

A root cellar is a structure built completely or partially underground and used to store vegetables, fruits and other foods that need to be kept cold.  They are well insulated so that the foods stay cold , but do not freeze.

To function properly a root cellar should maintain temperatures between 32° F and 40° F.  The humidity level should be 85 to 95 percent.

The high humidity slows the loss of moisture from evaporation and prevents wilting.

The cold slows the release of ethylene gas and prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause decomposition.

Some tips for making and using root cellars

  • Don’t dig near large trees.  It will be hard digging and the roots will eventually cause you problems such as cracking the walls.
  • Temperature can be regulated by ventilation to allow cold air in.
  • If you want completely stable temperatures, you need to have a root cellar that is 10 feet deep.
  • A thermometer and hygrometer can be handy to measure temperatures and humidity.
  • Wood shelving and platforms work well because they do not conduct changes in temperature as well as metal does.
  • Shipping pallets can make good flooring, because they allow air movement.
  • You should allow an air space between the shelving and the walls.

The following article is directions for building root cellars from a book published in 1907.  They show how to  build one that is partially underground.

Hope this helps you


root cellars

This entry was posted in food storage, preserving foods, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Root Cellars can Help You to Eat Well During the Winter.

  1. Margy says:

    I wish I had a root cellar. But I don’t have any land to build one near our float cabin, and anywhere on the deck would be too exposed to freezing. I do use small baskets under the bed in our downstairs bedroom. It is the coolest room in the house when we have the wood stove going. It’s also more protected when we are gone and it drops to freezing inside and out. I can keep my potatoes fresh all the way through early spring. – Margy

  2. GoneWithTheWind says:

    I grew up in New England in the 40’s and 50’s. We had a full basement with the walls made from local stones. A corner of the basement had a dirt floor. Every fall my father would buy a hundred or more pounds of potatoes and lay the burlap bags right onto the dirt in the cellar. We would get a bushel or two of apples and place the baskets on the dirt as well. Carrots, rutabagas, beets, cabbages and even green tomatoes still on the vine went there as well. The potatoes would last until spring with no problem. The apples mostly lasted as long but they would get kinda “pruney” after March. The carrots and cabbages typically would last till spring but the rutabagas would not last past December. The only thing we did other then just laying right on the ground in the dark was we would pick through them a couple times a week to pull out any that were going bad. The cellar was cold in the winter, probably mid 40’s or so. The “dirt” was sandy, the typical dirt found in New Engand once you dug past the topsoil. It was never wet in the cellar and never felt damp but I’m sure there was some residual mositure in the sandy soil. This was no root cellar but worked fine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *