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Root cellar? What the heck is a root cellar?

April 16, 2013

Hi folks.


Root cellar? If you’re less than 50 years old and have lived in the city all your life, you may have a vague idea of, or have no clue as to what a ‘root cellar’ is, or what it’s intended for or how it works. Well, if you’re an old guy like me, you or your parents, who may have had large gardens had one or at least your grand parents who lived on farms, probably had a root cellar. This was a method to preserve fresh vegetables through the winter, picked from the crops one had grown during the summer season. My Tennessee grandparents had a huge (at least from my perspective as a child) root cellar, made with a concrete floor and cement block walls, with a sturdy roof holding up about a couple feet of earth, the whole thing dug back into the shady hillside behind their house. Essentially, this was like a large walk-in cooler or mild refrigerator. The surrounding earth kept this room full of Mamaw’s canned stuff and barrels of potatoes, and other items considerably cooler than the summer weather, but also kept the goods in the glass canning jars from freezing during the winter along with the fresh veggies in the barrels. My Dad and his 12 brothers and sisters ate ‘fresh’ veggies all winter from this storehouse in the hill.


These dug in storage places did double duty in ‘tornado alley’ as shelter from those insane winds. That was where Dorothy’s family was hiding, before she took her trip to Oz.


Storm cellar on the Texas plains.

Digging a hole the size of a small bedroom for a root cellar was no doubt a heck of a lot of hard manual labor. But you had to do what you needed to do for survival back then, just as we do now.

You can construct your own root cellar as large as you have space for, by building a root cellar in the basement , or this one in a corner , if you should have such space. You can also go small scale barrel in the ground methods as well. An ideal place for this type in in the crawl space under your house, if there is, in fact, space enough to get under there and dig a hole like this. These smaller scale ideas will probably work best to store your veggies through the winter, which is of course what the idea was for to begin with, as the summer temperatures will frequently penetrate the modest covering available for this kind of storage idea, especially out in the full sunlight of your back yard, if that’s where your space is limited to. 


If we’re going to raise our own survival crops, preserving them in as many ways as possible should be a definite goal of the prepper. That would cover freezing (as long as the power grid works), drying with your dehydrator, making meat jerky and fruit ‘leathers’ with your dehydrator, buying dry bulk goods to vacuum pack into smaller quantities (such as beans, rice and pasta), canning your own meats, stews, veggies, fruits, jams and jellies, stashing it all into your root cellar down in the basement.  A nice dry root cellar is also a fine place to keep ‘store bought’ canned goods as well, since the cool environment helps extend their shelf life.


Root cellar

Root cellar (Photo credit: espring4224)



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