We’re nearly 2 months into our root cellar experiment, so I wanted to give a quick update on how things were going.
And I have a root cellar in my basement at home.
What I’ve learned so far:
1) Produce has to be perfect when it goes into storage. We had a few things spoil in the first 2 weeks of root cellaring. Little bruises or cuts lead to mold right away. While I knew this from the books I’d read, it wasn’t until a whole bunch of my sweet potatoes went fuzzy that I really learned this lesson. Next year I’d connect with the farmer earlier in the season before they had washed the produce and buy unwashed produce, thus eliminating extra handling. And on the upside, we only lost some sweet potatoes and a couple of cabbages. The rest of the produce has been great.
2) I prefer the dirt floor to a cement floor. The EAC root cellar has a dirt floor and the humidity doesn’t vary as much as it does in my cement floored root cellar at home. We regularly water the floor of the EAC root cellar and it rarely drops below 70%. At home, the humidity fluctuates with the outside humidity. Despite keeping open buckets of water and a wet towel in the root cellar, the humidity is still quite variable. I will be giving some thought to how to increase and stabilize the humidity for next year. The upside: vegetables are really quite resilient. Other than a couple of slight soft beets, and one moldy cabbage, the vegetables and apples have mostly been fine.
3) The root cellar is subject to the outside temperature. I know, another obvious one. But, it was really warm this December and when it’s regularly above 10 degrees outside, it’s hard to cool down your root cellar. I don’t think the temperature in either root cellar dipped below 5 degrees more than once or twice all December. Fortunately (for the root cellars) January has been colder.
4) Things have sprouted and I’m not sure why. We’ve had some carrots sprout and a few potatoes. This could be due to the ethylene gas given off by the apples or (and this is my theory) it was too warm in December. The sprouting seems to have slowed or stopped, so we may not know the exact reason. This is something to watch for the future.
5) You have to eat with your root cellar in mind. I actually did a pretty good job at guessing how much my partner and I eat of certain vegetables. We seem to be going through the carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes and apples at a good rate. I still have a lot of squash and cabbage, but I’m nearly out of onions. This week I’m going to cook up some cabbage and make some sauerkraut.
Stay tuned for more root cellar updates as the season continues.
Yours in Food,