Root Cellaring 101
Many foods will last weeks or months if kept in a dark, cool spot. Learn which foods keep well and how to store them with our guide to root cellaring.
By Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie
To boost the cellar life of garlic, onions, potatoes and squash, first let them sit in a dry, room-temperature space for a few weeks to “cure,” or toughen the skin. Cure onions and garlic at room temperature for 2 to 4 weeks; potatoes in the shade at around 60 degrees for two weeks; and sweet potatoes and winter squash (except acorn) in a warm spot for 10 to 14 days. Cool other produce as soon as possible after harvest.
|Produce||Storage Container||Storage Life||Notes|
|Apples||Portable bin, perforated plastic bags||4 to 6 months||Store away from vegetables, wrapped individually in dry newspaper|
|Green Beans||Salted in ceramic crock||4 to 6 months|
|Beets||Bin or wooden box with lid||4 to 6 months||Sort and store in groups by size; use smallest first|
|Carrots||Bin or wooden box with lid||4 to 6 months||Sort and store in groups by size; use smallest first|
|Garlic||Bin, baskets or hanging from ceiling||2 to 3 months for hard-neck varieties, 4 to 5 months for soft-neck||Cure before storing|
|Gingerroot||Wooden box with lid or baskets||Up to 6 months|
|Horseradish||Wooden box with lid||4 to 6 months|
|Onions||Bin or hanging from ceiling||4 to 6 months||Cure before storing|
|Peppers (Hot)||Hanging from ceiling||4 to 6 months||First tie together and hang in warm place until dry, then transfer to cool storage|
|Potatoes||Bin, wooden box with lid or paper bag||4 to 6 months||Store in complete darkness|
|Pumpkins||Individually on shelves or hanging in mesh bags||5 to 6 months||Rub vegetable oil on outside to extend storage life|
|Radishes (Winter)||Wooden box with lid||5 to 8 weeks||Will shrivel unless packed in damp sand, sawdust or peat moss|
|Squash (Acorn)||Bin or individually on shelves||2 to 4 months||Do not cure before storing; rub vegetable oil on outside to extend storage life|
|Squash (Winter)||Individually on shelves or hanging in mesh bags||4 to 6 months||Cure before storing; leave space between each squash and its neighbor; rub vegetable oil on outside to extend storage life|
|Sweet Potatoes||Individually wrapped in paper on shelves or in shallow crates||2 to 3 months||Cure before storing; avoid handling before use|
|Zucchini||Bins or individually on shelves||1 to 2 weeks for small zucchini; up to 3 months for large|
– Adapted with permission from The Complete Root Cellar Book by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie
For an extended guide to root cellaring including more produce types, read the article, "Waste Not, Want Not: The Food-Energy Link."
To learn more about root cellaring and other ways to preserve food, read the original article, “6 Simple Food Preservation Methods.”