Friday, March 19, 2010
One Step Foward, Two Steps Back...!
More and more these days, we are making our way back to the older ways of doing things.
Sometimes it's from necessity, sometimes it's because we just want to separate ourselves from the dependency on grid power! Whatever the reason, many of us are looking into, and implementing, some of the more simple and effective ways of caring for and extending food storage.
Of course, one of the best remembered ways of doing this is through the time honored use of a root cellar!
Here's some tips from the Almanac along these lines...
Before refrigeration, the root cellar was an essential way to keep carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, potatoes, and other root vegetables fresh through the winter months.
This time-tested storage method still makes sense today—whether you stock a root cellar with your own homegrown produce or the bounty from local farmers' markets.
Technically, a root cellar is any storage location that uses natural cooling, insulating, and humidifying properties of the earth.
To work properly, a root cellar must be able to hold a temperature of 32º to 40º F and a relatively humidity level of 85 to 95 percent.
The cool temperature slows the release of ethylene gas and stops the grow of microorganisms that cause decomposition.
The humidity level prevents loss of moisture through evaporation—and the withering looks that go along with it.
To create the best atmosphere in your root cellar, consider this:
Complete temperature stability is reached about 10 feet (3 m) deep.
Don’t dig a root cellar near a large tree; the tree’s roots can be difficult to dig through, and they will eventually grow and crack the cellar walls.
Inside, wooden shelving, bins, and platforms are the norm, as wood does not conduct heat and cold as rapidly as metal does.
Air circulation is critical for minimizing airborne mold, so shelves should stand 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 cm) away from the walls.
For outdoor root cellars, packed earth is the preferred flooring. Concrete works well and is practical for a cellar in a basement.
Every root cellar needs a thermometer and a hygrometer (to measure temperature and humidity, respectively), which should be checked daily, if possible.
Heat is usually regulated using ventilation to the outside or an exhaust pipe—usually to allow cold air in, often on fall nights to get the temperature down.
I realize that many of us don't have the area to put in a root cellar, but you can use buried trash cans and such. A search on the Internet will reveal some ways of following this option...and this could help if you live in the city, where digging a root cellar could draw some unwanted attention from nosy neighbors and the County Mounties and Permit Police!
Anyway, let's get some fresh coffee and sit outside for a bit...we can talk about FOOD!