If you’re planning to store produce in a root cellar, here are tips to ensure to ensure that your fruits and vegetables survive storage.
- Stock your cellar as late in the season as you can. If possible, chill the produce in the fridge before putting it in the cellar.
- A few vegetables—such as potatoes, winter squashes, and onions—need to be “cured” for a few days in warm temperatures before going into cold storage.
- Shake off loose dirt rather than washing it off. Many root–cellar vegetables store better this way.
- Always handle your vegetables with care; even slightly rough treatment can cause invisible bruising, which starts the produce on the road to decomposition.
- Store cabbages and turnips in a detached root cellar so their odor, which can be unpleasant, will not permeate the house.
- Think about where you place produce: The driest, warmest air is near the ceiling, more-humid air is lower as well as farthest from the door.
- Most fruit “breathes,” and some—particularly apples and pears—should be wrapped in paper to retard the release of ethylene gas.
- Making a root cellar in a garage or using pressure-treated wood is not recommended.
- Vegetables piled together generate heat, which can lead to spoilage. Put on shelves close to the floor and rotate.
- Check your vegetables regularly, and immediately remove any with signs of rot. From the lessons of the cold cellar comes the saying, “One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.”
Try these techniques whether you harvest your own or buy your produce at a farmer’s market!