Mother Earth Living
Add to My MSN

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.”

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.