Before we had refrigeration commonly available in our houses, enjoying and storing fresh vegetables to eat over the frigid winter months was done through the use of a root cellar.

Root cellars are rooms dug into the Earth used to store crops during the winter months. They can also be attached directly to the house in the basement or as part of their own structure. Being dug down into the Earth, unheated, and below the frost line means that they stay at a constant cool temperature throughout the year. This allows for root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and turnips to store in very good condition throughout the winter and allows people to have fresh produce when there isn’t anything growing outside. Root cellars can also be dug into the side of a hill as another option.

Due to different storage requirements, separate root cellars can be used to store apples, salted orfresh meat, jarred preserves, winter squash, and alcoholic beverages.

While many homes aren’t built with root cellars anymore, you can mimic some of the conditions to store some extra vegetables without electricity during the winter months. This can include using an unheated garage or unfinished basement or putting storage vegetables in the coolest part of the house.

Having a root cellar can help you take advantage of harvest prices by buying in bulk when things are at their peak freshness and productivity, allowing you to be more in tune with eat with the season. Like many things, a regular checkup on the cellar to examine your produce is important to remove lower quality specimens and to enjoy something fresh even on the coldest winter days.

Cover Image by Don O'Brien, used under its Creative Commons license.

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