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Kelly J. Cooper

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Root Cellar? [Nov. 21st, 2011|03:23 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
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Anybody do anything root-cellar-like to preserve your harvest or CSA shares?

I don't want to build a room in the basement, I just wanna keep most of my fruits & veggies from rotting too fast.
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From: allessindra
2011-11-21 01:18 pm (UTC)
I have no useful suggestion, but I thought you might be amused by the fact that I had to read this three times before I saw Root Cellar -- I kept wondering why you would want a rocket-cellar.

More usefully on topic - or at least hopefully so - I believe the 'store in a cool, dry place' is a reference to a canonical root cellar, such being (relatively) cool due to being somewhat underground, and at least dry by intention.

I also remember some bits on storing fruit being the kind of thing sometimes mentioned in passing on the Brother Cadfael books. In particular, I'm remembering them putting up a fruit-tree harvest on what seemed to be specialized racks - I'm thinking apples, but I'm not 100% sure on that, nor have I a memory of which book, tho I seem to think it involves kids, and thus might be the one with the two kids who were within ?days?weeks? of each other's birth, but one was uncle to the other, looked like twins, and were ?alternately? hiding out in Cadfael's herb shack...

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From: allessindra
2011-11-21 01:20 pm (UTC)
Ok, so suggesting you grep through a dozen or more historical fiction books for useful data is, perhaps, not useful in and of itself. But if you go looking for bruits, herbs, vegetables in Tudor times, you might find useful info? Maybe? A little?

[slinks off now...]
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From: allessindra
2011-11-21 01:20 pm (UTC)

that whole editing comments after posted thing...


Fruits.

Fruits.

not Bruits.

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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-11-22 08:43 am (UTC)

Re: that whole editing comments after posted thing...

Ha! Well, if nothing else, your posts all amused me!
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[User Picture]From: muffyjo
2011-11-21 01:53 pm (UTC)
So my understanding of why things rot, etc, has to do with the ethylene gas let off as they go. There are specially built bags and such for that purpose. Reviews show that, in general, they work. That folks are concerned about food lasting so long etc.

The basic summary of the process is...

1. Moisture plays a role in the rotting of fruit as well
2. Air circulation can help to keep the gasses from building up
3. gasses emitted from one set of veggies/fruits will ripen other veggies/fruits faster.

So from what I can tell, it looks like keeping things separated, cool and mostly dry (exceptions are things like herbs which do well with a damp paper towel in the bag). All of which were pretty much what a root cellar did.

Here's a site which breaks down what to store, how and where. that might be helpful for your decision making.

Edited at 2011-11-21 01:53 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-11-22 08:46 am (UTC)
Huh. That IS a good article about ethylene. Didn't occur to me that there's more to handling it than keeping apples & bananas away from everything else.

Thanks!
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-11-22 08:47 am (UTC)
I probably should've mentioned in my original note that I've done a whole bunch of research online (including that link!) & in books & was looking for more comments about people's experience in doing root-cellar-like things.

Thanks, though!
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[User Picture]From: tb
2011-11-21 05:49 pm (UTC)
You can store root veggies buried in clean, dry sand in a cool part of the cellar. Make sure they're not wet, damaged, or touching each other.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-11-22 08:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, I wasn't sure if I could do this in plastic or if it had to be wood or something else.

I actually bought a thing online from the Garden Supply Co. (I think) that's a wire mesh crate with a cloth lining, so I can put sand in that & then root veggies & then other stuff. I was planning on using coir instead of leaves for the stuff that needs to be loosely packed in light stuff.

Do you just dig up your veggies when you want them? How do you remember which veggie is how deep? And how do you keep from disturbing all the other veggies & making a mess when you dig one out?
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[User Picture]From: tb
2011-11-22 06:29 pm (UTC)
The time I had a surplus, I used sand in plastic buckets and only did potatoes and carrots, one variety per container so no need to remember them by layer (maybe you can partition your crate). When I wanted some I just reached in and dug around a bit until I found one.

I leave my harvested and well-dried garlic heads loose in a small bucket in the cellar, trying to keep it dark, cool, and dry as well. Eventually it starts to sprout anyway, but I usually manage to have enough keep until the next garlic season.

(Most of the time I don't run a root veggie surplus and just store stuff in the fridge, even potatoes and onions which you're not supposed to do that way. I've never noticed potatoes getting too sweet, which is supposed to be a problem when they're stored too cold, but that may be because I use them mostly in soups or mashed with lots of garlic and seasonings.)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-11-23 04:30 am (UTC)
Huh. OK. I have a winter farm share, so I've got a LOT of root veggies and not enough recipes/energy to make them all RIGHT NOW. That's a big part of why I'm looking into this.

Maybe I'll put sand in a couple of my buckets & dedicate one to potatoes & one to carrots, then get creative with the other veggies in the new container when it arrives.

What kind of sand do you use? Does it matter?
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From: tb
2011-11-23 04:59 pm (UTC)
I used leftover sand from cement-mixing. I think so long as it's clean and not too wet, it doesn't matter much. I'd avoid beach sand due to the salt.

Some people use rice, but I think that's a bit extravagant.
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