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Harvest Root Cellar Survival
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    9,472

    Root Cellar Survival

    I thought I would start a thread on Root Cellars and benefits. We use ours all year long. Currently we are bring out Cabbage that is still as firm and green when we pulled them last fall. I made a wooden box out of rough cut 2X8 and poured in fine sand. Pulled the cabbage plant straight out of the ground root and all. Then I put the cabbages in the box of sand in the Root Cellar with the root of the cabbage down in the sand. Poured water over the sand since we are fairly dry humidity here. The outer couple of leaves turn brown but seem to seal the rest of the cabbage. Peel them away and you have a perfect head of cabbage. It has been four months now and we have enjoyed the freshness of the garden in soups and slaw among other dishes. The carrots come out perfect as well as the turnips. The beets we have ate them all.
    "They wanted to be left alone to face challenges head-on, and to prosper from their own hard work and ingenuity...harsh country tends to produce strong people."-John Erickson

  2. #2
    That's awesome. For those who don't have a root cellar, there are other options. For several years now I have taken to burying my carrots in the garden. You have to insulate it with mulch and stuff in order to prevent the carrots from freezing, but it works. Thats just one example of things you can do.

  3. #3
    We just harvest the cabbage after the first frost. A couple frosts makes them sweeter, plus they "pre-chill".... if the root cellar is staying pretty cold by then, (under 50 degrees F) you're good. We remove as many outer leaves as necessary to get rid of slugs and earthworms, wh8ch like to hide in the first couple of layers. Then we wrap the well in several layers of newspaper, and lay them on shelves in the root cellar.

    And yes, they are coming out crisp and sweet... we don't buy fresh vegetables out of season... cabbage and carrots are our main fresh veggies in winter, although I'll often grow some hydroponic spinach and leaf lettuce for a treat.

    I've tried all the suggested methods of keeping carrots... damp sand, damp sawdust, maple leaves. The leaves seemed to work best of the "natural" methods. But the simplest and most foolproof, which can give us perfect carrots as late as May of the following year, is the perforated plastic bag method.

    I staple a dozen or so gallon Ziploc freezer bags together, and then run them through my unthreaded sewing machine, with a fairly heavy (size 16, or a denim needle) needle. I sew around in freeform designs , enough so the bag has fairly even perforations all over the surface...I usually sort of crisscross them about 3"apart.

    Put clean (not scrubbed... you don't want to damage the skins... just remove excess dirt) PERFECT carrots in the bags, immediately chill in the root cellar. As long as you don't accidently get carrots with wireworm damage mixed in, they will be sweet and crisp well into spring.

    If you miss some damaged roots, they'll rot into mush, and make a mess of the whole bag. I generally only have that problem with the couple bushels I sort out for the horses.

    We store potatoes, apples, carrots, cabbages, and occasionally beets (same way as carrots) in our root cellar. Contrary to all the expert advice, storing apples and potatoes close together doesn't seem to affect the potatoes at all. I often have to pull my Yukon Gold seed tubers out in May into a warmer place to get them to sprout in time for planting.

    Onions are stored in mesh bags separately... we found that they'll keep into June (Copras... the best storage onion, EVER) if we hang them at the bottom of the stairs that leads to our basement... outside the door to the basement that stays cold. It holds at about 50-55 degrees, and the humidity is quite a bit lower Dothan in the basement proper.

    Winter squash is stored on pallets in the basement, to keep them up off the concrete floor. They often keep a full year.

    We also use the root cellar for storing olive oil and honey. We've had 10 year old olive oil in sealed jugs show no sign of rancidity, and the cool temperatures keeps the honey from crystalizing as fast as it does in warmer temps.

    Summerthyme

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    upstate NY
    Posts
    11,053
    I've always wanted a decent root cellar but I found the greenhouse works in a similar fashion as I can leave carrots, onion, garlic and herbs in there all year and they do fine. I've also dug up potatoes in the spring that were wonderful. My problem was when the moles found the food they had a hey day in there. I've done numerous things to discourage critters but every year it seems it's something different.
    "Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food." Hippocrates

    Who is Q?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    'murKKa - FEMA region IV
    Posts
    5,937

    savoy cabbage going into the root cellar last fall and stored as BH specified - with EXCELLENT results.

    don't have a root cellar? that's not a problem. just before the first frost, pull up your cabbage keeping the root as long as possible; dig a trench deep enough to turn the head upside down and bury it completely. as an example of the depth - we'd use the trench the potato plow left and dig it half again as deep. set your cabbage in upside down covering the cabbage completely and mound up dirt leaving several inches of root exposed to act as a "locator and handle" to find and pull up your cabbage.

    before we dug the root cellar that's how we over wintered cabbage - and I have hacked it out of ground frozen to a depth of 12" . . . just like summer said its the sweetest whitest cabbage you'll ever taste.

    as for winter squash - we have something here called "candy roaster" - they taste like a cross between sweet potatoes and pumpkin and they grow HUGE - 55-70lbs. we store those in the fruit cellar on pallets and they will keep well into April and May if cared for properly. Raggedyann just froze 27 pints from one we cleaned cut and cooked (in shifts) in a roasting pan yesterday.



    “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” REV 3:16

    Raging Deplorable - we do NOT forget; we do NOT forgive; we are LEGION

  6. #6
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    Mar 2011
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    Ate the last head of cabbage out of the root cellar this week. It was great. We still have several bags of sauerkraut to finish off. Just got our seeds in for the new garden which is useless to plant until June. We are just to cold. I am going to build some grow boxes for the tomatoes from a design I found from the 1800's. We will see what happens. I do miss home grown tomatoes.
    "They wanted to be left alone to face challenges head-on, and to prosper from their own hard work and ingenuity...harsh country tends to produce strong people."-John Erickson

  7. #7
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    Great job on the squash Raggedyman.
    "They wanted to be left alone to face challenges head-on, and to prosper from their own hard work and ingenuity...harsh country tends to produce strong people."-John Erickson

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    961
    Really interesting stuff.

    Personally, I have dug down through snow to harvest frozen brussels sprouts.

  9. #9
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    Mar 2011
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    Pulled some carrots and turnips out of the cellar today. Just like we put them in last fall. Sorting potatoes for planting. Some of those are going in the pot today.
    "They wanted to be left alone to face challenges head-on, and to prosper from their own hard work and ingenuity...harsh country tends to produce strong people."-John Erickson

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    FEMA Region 6
    Posts
    1,550
    Ya'll are really making me wish I had a root cellar. Excellent thread!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    'murKKa - FEMA region IV
    Posts
    5,937
    Bubble Head:
    I made a wooden box out of rough cut 2X8 and poured in fine sand. Pulled the cabbage plant straight out of the ground root and all. Then I put the cabbages in the box of sand in the Root Cellar with the root of the cabbage down in the sand.
    just noticed that a picture I THOUGHT I posted several months back illustrating what BH said (above) in the OP didn't get posted. so I thot I'd add it now even tho it's late.

    BTW - not very many things better than overwintered cabbage - we prefer savoy cabbage - sweet and white and firm - used the last of them quite a bit back but their replacements are already in the ground
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    Last edited by Raggedyman; 04-28-2018 at 09:29 PM.
    “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” REV 3:16

    Raging Deplorable - we do NOT forget; we do NOT forgive; we are LEGION

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Jefferson
    Posts
    6,220
    Would really love to have a real root cellar. Not really sure how well one would work here in the Central Valley of California. I'm a little heavy on projects at the moment but I will certainly look into the idea sometime in the near future.
    We have done so much, with so little, for so long....We can now do anything, with nothing, forever.

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