I got plans to build a root cellar this summer, I mentioned the little book in a previous post, so feel free to check it out. I had the idea of a root cellar because I need a place to store vegetables over the winter without having to bring them indoors where, I swear, all the field mice in NJ come to eat. Anyway, in looking at the multiple ways to store food outdoors I was amazed at the variety of ways to do it. This included leaving some specific crops in the ground and mulching heavily over them, which would work in NJ for sure, but is probably not advisable for northern climates.
I got onto this idea after watching an episode of the Discovery TV Series The Alaska Experiment In which one of the couples were trying to find ways to store food, and honestly they had good ideas but poor execution. Their Idea was to bury a can in the ground and take advantage of the earths natural ability to provide a steady temperature. Good idea right? I thought so too so I found a nice diagram of the proper way to do this, and it's available over at thefoodguys.com. I also found a neat "pallet root cellar" HERE, very clever, easy, and larger than a buried garbage can.
The most important thing when storing your food underground is to keep it from getting wet, wetness equals rot and rot equals no food. So a few things to remember when deciding what kind of crop to place in your new underground storage unit are as follows:
Root crops including carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips all adapt to storage well and do best at near freezing and a relatively high humidity. Onions will need less humidity to discourage neck rot.
Leafy crops like celery and cabbage will store as well, but they have to be separate from root crops as they give off a gas that is harmful to other crops.
When selecting vegetables for storage throw away (or eat) any that is remotely close to turning or unsound. If they are allowed to be close to other crops they will affect them.
Do plenty of research on curing the different types of crops for storage. This is a science that is easily learned and there is plenty of online help available. The more I research, the more I learn and the more excited I am to give it a try. I am sure I'll make mistakes, but remember: Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
A few good food storage links:
Washington State University : Storing Fruits and Vegetables at Home
Cornell Cooperative extension: Storing guidelines for Fruits and Vegetables
Mother Earth News: Build a basement Root Cellar
Hobby Farms: Produce bound underground
Within 36 hours of a natural or man made disaster the food shelves at the local stores will be bare, if there are serious disruptions to the delivery system, they will stay that way for long periods of time. Prices will skyrocket and chaos will be the order of the day. With a little effort we can all make sure we have at least a 2 week supply stored for our families and with a little diligence, maybe more.