The root of the problem

Having read tons of books, articles, and blogs on root cellaring, the general consensus seems to be we’re hosed. Hardpan clay soil and abundant feral critters make outdoor cellaring impractical on this wee urban lot. We could buy a second refrigerator, but there’s no place in the Crack Shack to store it.

Here’s the rub. Different veggies require different levels of cold and humidity for funk-free*, long-term storage. And consistency of those variables is key, which means using our shed (sans climate control) is a bad idea with Georgia’s yo-yo-like winter weather.

One of the tomes I read, Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel, did provide some useful information that might help us make due. The Bubels created several handy lists of best-storing vegetables, how much a family of four should grow of each, and the conditions in which they should be stored.

Root+cellar+doorI consolidated those into one metalist, based on the veggies we plan to grow ourselves or purchase from our CSA farmers. The amounts were divided in half, since we only have two mouths to feed, and I abbreviated storage conditions using this key:

CVM: Cold and Very Moist, 32-40°F, 90-95% relative humidity

CM: Cold and Moist, 32-40°F, 80-90% relative humidity

COOM: Cool and Moist, 40-50°F, 85-90% relative humidity

CD: Cool and Dry: 32-50°F, 60-70% relative humidity

MWD: Moderately Warm and Dry, 50-60°F, 60-70% relative humidity

And now, the list:

  • Jerusalem artichokes, 1 bushel, CVM
  • Onions, 1 bushel, CD
  • Beets, 1 bushel, CVM
  • Cabbage, 15 heads, CM
  • Carrots, 2 bushels, CVM
  • Potatoes, 6 bushels, CM (but not in the fridge, lest they turn poisonous)
  • Butternut squash, 20, MWD
  • Garlic, as much as we can possibly grow, CD
  • Sweet potatoes, 2 bushels, MWD
  • Leeks, 15 plants, CVM
  • Brussels sprouts, 5 plants, CVM

Relative humidity in a fridge can be increased to 60% with the addition of an open container of water, so we could give Cool and Dry varieties a shot. The Moderately Warm and Dry crops, once cured, will probably make it through the winter in the guest room’s nooks and crannies, as long as we close off the heating vent. And even though the authors say Jerusalem artichokes fall in the Cold and Very Moist category, ours lasted for months in the crisper bin, so I’ll try that again this year.

As for the rest? We’ll go with Plan B: canning and pickling the heck out of everything once we snag a pressure canner. Though not as much fun as devouring fresh vegetables when it’s 30°F outside, it’ll do the job. More on curing and preserving low-acid foods in an upcoming post.

Have you tried storing food through the winter? If so, what worked and what didn’t?


*Personally, I prefer my roots with a little funk.

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