In the Root Cellar
We got a freeze on the farm this past week! This means I was running around trying to bring everything in so that it would not get ruined. When we purchased the farm 4 years ago, I was most excited that there was a large root cellar located under the garage! We have never had a root cellar before so I started doing some research. I think most people know that you store vegetables in a root cellar for the winter because it stays cool. One thing that I didn't realize is that a root cellar is not the best place to store everything! Some items need humid conditions and some need dry conditions. A root cellar has cool and humid conditions. One of the first things I put into the root cellar was onions. What I didn't know is that onions need cool and dry storage conditions. The onions started to get some mold on them. Also, the onions started sprouting because we have 2 windows in the side of the root cellar and light was coming in. That problem was easy to fix and we covered the windows with boards. Then, as mentioned in the last blog, we ended up putting an air conditioner in one of the windows and we use that to keep it at 40 degrees and because it is built partially underground, it has a good amount of humidity in our root cellar (it is at least 80% humidity).
We store a lot of squash to feed to the chickens and the ducks in the winter. I have been surprised to find that summer squash actually store pretty well. Squash needs cool and dry conditions for storage. I let them cure and then put into bins and place in a storage room of the house that we do not heat.
Once I get the container full, I put the squash on a shelf in a room of the house that stays cool. I also have the onions and some sunflower heads here on these shelves. In a perfect world, I would have the onions in a dark container so they cannot get too much light. I will have to get some more containers...but we do have the windows blocked in this room too so not much light gets in.
|Top to bottom...sunflower heads...summer squash...onions...on the right side you can see a bag of garlic hanging there...|
Root vegetables are easy to store and need cold and very moist conditions. Root vegetables do not need to be cured. In fact, it is best to pull them out of the ground and store them immediately. I like to put them in layers of damp sand. I have read that damp sawdust also works well. I store carrots and beets this way. One of the first years I grew beets, I canned some. This was fine but it seems much easier to me to just store them in the root cellar now. Side note: the wet sand gets very heavy...I had to ask Henry to bring this in to the cellar after I filled it up in the garden. Seriously thinking about switching to sawdust next year...
It is best to store larger root vegetables but the carrots just did not grow very big...if the small ones become rubbery, we will just use them for making broth...Joshua LOVES roasted carrots so I have a feeling that they will not last long...
I am experimenting with drying down some sunflower heads for seeds for the chickens and the ducks. It is challenging to get them to dry down all the way. They need to be completely dried or they will mold. I looked at them today and noticed that some were getting a little fuzzy so I turned them over so the underside could dry out. I think they would be best to dry on a screen but I don't have a huge screen to put them on...I will have to think about it a little more for next year...even though we got a good amount of sunflower heads, they will be used up in the next couple of weeks...the girls LOVE their sunflower seeds!
Speaking of seeds, I diligently saved some pea seeds a month ago when the plants started to dry down. Luckily, I opened the jar the other day and noticed that they have weevils! I guess the bugs must have been in the seed when I put them in the jar. I picked some more pea seed and this time, I put it in the freezer for a week to keep any weevil eggs that may have been in there from hatching. I am glad I decided to save some seed early in the season and realized my mistake...
I bought these special root cellar storage containers (to the left of the celery in the pic). As you can see, it is mostly burlap and this allows for good ventilation. I put the carrots and beets in these containers. I dug up this celery from the garden and kind of "replanted" it in this large pot...it should be good for a few weeks...I like to dry it (when I have time) and can add it to soups this winter...
I also store heads of cabbage in the root cellar. They don't really need any special treatment...I just put them on the shelf and grab one when I need one. You just have to peel off the outer layers of the cabbage because they will brown and dry out a little...the inside is all good. I also put the watermelon in the root cellar but we will be eating these ASAP! They will not keep more than a couple weeks.
I tried to stay on topic...this is mostly what I store as whole vegetables in the fall...summer and winter squash, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, beets and cabbage. I have heard of people storing tomatoes in the root cellar and wrapping each tomato in newspaper but I just can/ferment most of the tomatoes into salsa and sauce.
Busy busy time of year! Have an eggcellent day!