As we head into deep into fall, and the desire to store apples, potatoes, garlic, onions and the like through the winter is at a peak, those of us without a root cellar get despondent. Okay, maybe not completely despondent, but we wish we had a way of storing these foods for long periods of time.
You see, living in an area where we rarely get snow, let alone cold enough temperatures to keep things in a garage or shed makes it difficult to store these foods without some sort of cellar or shelter. So, what's a desperate food storage obsessed person to do?
Some might suggest building in a root cellar. For many of us that is not only impractical, but impossible. What's another option? Well, if you have any bit of yard you can easily make your own mini root cellar. Even if you rent - because this is an impermanent solution and it doesn't take up much space.
Have I got your interest yet? Okay here goes. Dig a hole in the ground to accommodate a fairly large sized plastic container like an old cooler, a garbage can or a large storage bin with a lid. Place your receptacle of choice in said hole, making sure you leave a few inches sticking out of the ground to prevent rainwater or runoff from entering your "cellar". You can dig a little drainage ditch around the cellar and cover with insulating straw and plastic as well to further protect your storage container.
If you want a lot more storage space and don't mind digging a bigger hole, consider burying a 55 gallon drum or something larger. In spite of the space limitations, I would imagine that a long storage bin or insulated cooler would be ideal since you could place smaller bins or racks inside to keep some semblance of order and make it easier to find what you are looking for. But if you are looking to store a lot of large items, like 15 pumpkins, you'll need to find a larger container.
Once you've got your cellar loaded, pack it with newspaper or straw or whatever you have on hand to help keep things insulated and then snap on the lid securely. You want to make sure that the only one getting into your food supply is you and not the neighborhood bugs and critters. You'll also want to make sure you check your stock occasionally to remove any items that aren't looking too good.
If this type of cellar works out for you, you can be looking at these kinds of storage times for your bounty:
Apples: ~ 2 - 6 months
Radishes: ~ 3 months
Beets: ~ 4 months
Carrots: ~ 5 months
Pumpkins: ~ 5 months
Squash: ~ 5 months
Turnips: ~ 5 months
Potatoes: ~ 5 months
Now, this solution isn't perfect or ideal because of the limited space, but it's an easy option to give a try. Just don't store your potatoes with your apples!
For more information on how to store your foods, check out these great free resources:
Storage Guidelines for Fruits & Vegetables, Cornell University
Storing Vegetables at Home, University of Wisconsin
What to do with all those apples
Drying herbs for idiots
Preserving food for the winter