The wonderful feeling you get from harvesting plenty of food from your garden can be quickly dampened when you contemplate how you can possibly store everything through the winter. When it comes to storing food through the winter there are several options—such as canning, freezing and cellaring. Of these, cellaring is the simplest method for storing seasonal crops.
What is Cellaring?
Cellaring is a form of storage that keeps food and drinks in edible condition by controlling the light, ventilation, temperature and humidity. Before refrigerators and electricity, people relied on underground root cellars to keep food fresh. Even today, wine cellars and cheese cellars are still the preferred method for allowing these foods and drinks to age properly. A root cellar allows you to enjoy your fresh produce for the entire winter.
How Does Cellaring Work?
There are four basic factors in creating a working root cellar that will preserve your produce all winter long—Light, ventilation, temperature and humidity. Light breaks down food quickly, so a proper root cellar must be dark and out of the sunlight. Ventilation is needed, circulating air slowly with cool air entering and warmer air exiting. Temperatures in a root cellar should stay cool and consistent, around 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for best results. Proper humidity is critical to a good root cellar, with around 90 percent humidity to keep vegetables from shriveling. When you have all four of these conditions set, a root cellar can preserve your harvest through the winter without deterioration or spoilage.
Ideas for Winter Cellaring
You don’t need to do anything very extensive to make a root cellar that is a big part of your winter food storage. A lot depends on your current house plans. If you have a basement with a dirt floor, you can make simple modifications to the area and build a wonderful cellar. In a heated but unfinished basement, you might consider building a root cellar out of an unheated corner. Many people make outdoor root cellars by digging into a hillside and placing insulated doors. Regardless of what type of root cellar you choose, make sure the four conditions are in place for maximum efficiency.
What Kind of Food Can I Store In Winter?
There are several kinds of foods you can store in a root cellar throughout the winter. The best foods include squash, onions, celery, apples, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, endive, cabbage and sweet potatoes. With the right conditions, you can enjoy fresh food from your garden harvest deep into the winter months.
Chett Wright enjoys writing about camping, outdoor living and emergency preparedness. His most recent articles include emergency food storage with kids, winter emergency prep and survival gardening.