Building a Root Cellar: A Complete Guide – Modern Homesteading

Root cellars – a common feature of early American homes – are growing in popularity as food and energy prices rise, and also as homeowners discover just how much better locally grown produce tastes. Whether you’re gardening or buying in bulk at your local farmer’s market, you can enjoy fresh carrots, cabbage, beets, potatoes, apples, grapes and more all year round if you create a space with the right temperature. and humidity. You can go so far as to create an isolated room in your basement – with ventilation controls – or you can just start with a barrel buried in the ground.

Whichever type of root cellar you choose, The Complete Root Cellar Book by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie is a comprehensive guide to help you build and use these smart, economical structures. The authors argue that anyone, anywhere, can and should have a root cellar. “Root cabinets help get the most out of your food dollar by allowing you to stock up cheaply during seasonal harvests,” writes Maxwell, award-winning home improvement author and MOTHER EARTH NEWS editor. Further, according to Maxwell, “Root Cellars provide a way of life … an opportunity to cultivate traditional skills and refine gastronomic knowledge in a way that is both fulfilling and globally responsible.”

With a root cellar, you can keep bushels of locally grown or heirloom varieties of vegetables (not available in supermarkets) in optimal condition for months using little to no energy. Imagine picking up ‘Italian Bassano’ beets or ‘Maiden’s Blush’ apples just steps from your kitchen when you want to prepare them, all winter long.

True to its title, the book is both broad and specific in addressing the basics of design, construction methods and harvesting, storage and preparation of food. The first half of the book provides 30 easy-to-follow illustrated blueprints for creating standard cold rooms, basement root cellars, free-standing underground root cellars, and even root cellars for condos, townhouses, and homes. hot climates. It also offers simple outdoor cellar options such as the “trench silo” and the “garbage cellar”.

A section on storage options explains how to create ideal conditions for more than 50 crops, from apples to zucchini. Maxwell even explains techniques such as braiding and hanging onions and garlic, as well as salting and storing green beans in ceramic pots.

The second half of The Complete Root Cellar Book is the work of Jennifer MacKenzie, professional home economist and author, who presents classic and innovative suggestions for using food in the cellar. You’ll find over 100 recipes, such as butternut squash and roasted apple soup with sunflower ravioli and beet and sweet potato fries with three pepper mayo. MacKenzie also provides easy-to-digest instructions for making applesauce, sauerkraut, and barrel-fermented dill pickles.