As you may remember, we built a root cellar here at the Ecology Action Centre and five lovely women shared the space to store their vegetables over the winter. Additionally, I fixed up my home root cellar and stored my vegetables there. Curious about how everyone’s vegetable experience went, we had a little debrief meeting a couple weeks ago.
On the whole, we all enjoyed the experience and most people are up for doing it again next season. Despite the unseasonable warm winter, everyone’s food stored well. Having had the experience of working with both an earthen floor root cellar (at the EAC) and a concrete floored cellar (at home), I have to say that I prefer the earthen floor. I found that the temperature and humidity levels were more constant.
The members of the community root cellar found that the main challenge they experienced was remembering to stop by the office and take things home. Several members said that they would do more meal planning in the future and stock up on a week’s worth of vegetables at a time.
We all experienced challenges in attempting to guess how much produce we’d need for the winter. Some items were over estimated, others underestimated. I’ll provide my numbers as an example. This is what I ordered for a household of 2 adults and when I ran out:
Stored in basement, not in root cellar
15 lbs onions: Ran out by early February, all were still in good shape at that time
20 lbs sweet potatoes: Had storage problems. Remaining sweet potatoes moldy by January
8 squash: Ran out mid March. Only one went bad.
4 cabbage: Ran out late March. The outer leaves dried out, but the insides were fine
5 lbs garlic: I’m still eating the last two bulbs. They are in perfect condition.
Stored inside the root cellar
10 lbs Gala apples: Ran out late March. Starting to go soft near the end
10 lbs Spy apples: Cooked the last 8 apples into sauce mid-February. Didn’t store as well as the Gala
20 lbs carrots: Ran out mid-March. Other than a few black spots, totally fine
12 lbs parsnips: Ran out late February, much to the dismay of my parsnip-loving boyfriend
15 lbs beets: I ate the last 4 beets for dinner last night. They stored really well. Maybe too well. I was perhaps overly ambitious in my beet ordering
40 lbs potatoes: Ran out mid March. They sprouted some eyes in December, perhaps due to warm weather, but otherwise stored fine.
Next year I would order more parsnips and potatoes, and considerably more onions. I would order fewer beets and sweet potatoes (and see if I could figure out what went wrong with the sweet potatoes). All the other amounts seemed to work well for my household.
One other idea that came up at the debrief was that we’d like to have a potluck or two throughout the season. Because everyone had different schedules, most people didn’t see one another. A potluck would give us a chance to swap recipes and trade extra vegetables and put more “community” in the community root cellar.
We also decided that next year we’d share the job of getting wholesale lists from farmers (e.g. everyone contacts one farmer). This would give us a chance to see what other storage vegetables (and varieties) are out there. We also thought that we could likely add two more people to the root cellar community, as we had additional space.
And that’s it for this season.
Yours in root cellaring,
PS In case you missed our past community root cellar posts, here are the links:
And if you’d like to learn to build a root cellar, check out the Deanery’s root cellar work party this weekend. Please note, they are thinking of doing some of the work on Sunday, so please contact Greg (see info in link) if you’d like to attend.