Root Cellaring – Book Review
Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables, by Mike and Nancy Bubel
This book is a classic – a wonderful “bible” about using natural cold storage to keep your fruits and vegetables. Originally written in the 1970's, the information in it is still very useful today. Whether you live in a very cold climate, or in a more moderate one, this book has practical suggestions for you.
It starts out discussing how to select the right varieties of plants for cold storage. Not just what types of plants you can store this way, but which varieties that store well. For example, cabbage is a good storage crop, but some varieties store well and others don't.
They offer a calendar showing which months that different crops are available from their root cellar or fresh from their gardens. Of course, this schedule may vary for your own garden, depending on your local climate. The Bubels also give an estimate of how much of each type of fruit and vegetable to store for a family of four.
Section Two explains how to harvest and prepare your crops for storage. You can have a perfect root cellar, but if you don't handle and prepare your harvest properly, you could lose much of your food to spoilage. It's also very important to properly time the planting and harvest of your storage crops. If they are too young or too mature when you put them in storage, they won't keep as well.
Section Three discusses in great detail exactly how to handle each type of fruit, vegetable, seed, or nut.
The last half of the book focuses on describing many ways to naturally store your crops. Actual root cellars work best in cold climates with well-drained soils. (It doesn't work well if you dig a deep hole for a root cellar, only to have it flood with water during the winter!) For those of us with warmer winters, there are other options for storage, including trenches, mounds, buried trash cans or old freezers, and more.
Other storage places include a variety of nooks and crannies inside and underneath your home. I live in zone 6b, and I had a neighbor that successfully stored their potatoes in bushel baskets in the crawl space under their home. They didn't have to “create” a root cellar. They made effective use of what they already had.
This books goes into great detail about what makes a good root cellar. Proper temperature and moisture levels are important, but many people don't realize that good ventilation is just as critical. The Bubels clearly describe a variety of home-made root cellars and other storage methods.
I bought this book many years ago. It is a vital part of my home library devoted to food self-sufficiency. I highly recommend it.