Root Cellars: An Old Concept for Modern Survival

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

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