Food Refrigeration Techniques

In a Grid down scenario where there is no power, and you either dont have any alternative energies in your home, there are various ways to refrigerate foods, based on age old an modern methods. As preppers it is very important for us to know how to keep food cold without refrigeration.


Clay Pot Refrigeration

Have you ever wondered what our ancestors did without refrigeration? How were they able to prevent their food from spoiling? Some of our ancient civilizations did in fact have refrigeration and used simple items they had on hand to create it.

The zeer, or clay pot refrigeration keeps food cool (icy cold) without electricity by using evaporative cooling. Essentially, a porous outer earthenware pot, lined with wet sand, contains an inner pot (which can be glazed to prevent penetration by the liquid) within which the food is placed. The evaporation of the outer liquid draws heat from the inner pot.

In a short or long-term disaster where power is out, knowing essential skills on how to prevent foods from spoiling will help you survive longer and stay healthier. Further, having this simple device can also help you have a diverse diet during a disaster and prolong food fatigue. The best part is that making this device is incredibly cheap, very effective, and doesn’t require any electricity, which is perfect for those disasters where the power is affected and you have no fuel to power your generators.

All that is needed to create a clay pot refrigerator is two terra cotta pots, one larger than the other, as well as some sand, water, and cloth. To make the “fridge”, you just put one pot inside the other, and fill up the spaces with wet sand, which keeps the inside of the pots cold. You will also need to put a wet towel over the top to keep the warm air and light from getting in.

Rather than re-inventing the wheel, perhaps we could learn a thing or two from our ancient ancestors. Using what they had available to them, our ancestors seemed to have many of the modern day conveniences we have today.

(his article has been contributed by Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition. )

Root Cellar Refrigeration


Root Cellar using a Refrigerator

A root cellar for fall and winter storage is a must for any latitude, even in the south where I live, and cold-season temperatures may not reach a cellar’s ideal levels between 32 and 40 degrees F. But, the simple fact is, the cooler one keeps any food (with few exceptions), the longer it will last.

If my cellars can keep fresh foods edible for even a month longer than the case would be without them, while also providing better summer temperatures for canned and dried foods, cellars will be indispensable additions to my efforts of survival and preparedness. Building this type of food storage container is not at all difficult and takes about two days to complete, with most time spent digging the hole. You might be able to get the job done in less time, but for me it took two days, then again I am lazy and like to take my time while doing things.

Stuff You’ll Need:
Straw Bales
Clear Plastic Sheeting
Plastic Sheeting
Shovel and Pick
Old Deep-freeze Or Refrigerator

Step 1:
Remove motor, shelves and lock from door (so no child can get locked inside).
Step 2:
Dig a hole large enough to hold the deep freeze where the top of the freezer is ground level or slightly below ground level.
Step 3:
Place some rocks in bottom of the hole for drainage.
Step 4:
Place the freezer into hole on its back. The door will open like a lid.
Step 5:
Fill around freezer with soil.
Step 6:
Place vegetables in freezer. Follow storage guidelines for vegetables just as if you were using a cellar.
Step 7:
Cover freezer with a sheet of plastic to keep water from freezing the lid shut.
Step 8:
Place bags of leaves or bales of hay or straw on top of the freezer to help with cold weather.

To keep the metal from rusting, it could be sealed with an exterior-grade sealer, preferably the black-tar product used on the basements of homes (driveway sealer might work too). This tar should also keep out the ants and termites. I just stuck mine in the ground as is but this extra step could extend the life of the set-up. You may need to add a small vent pipe from the freezer to the outside to let in fresh air. Like I said mine was stuck in the ground without much extra effort and I have had no problems thus far, time will tell.

(by M.D. Creekmore

Building a Root Cellar

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.

Start With a Hole in the Ground

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 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.

Today, root cellars are often attached to houses for easy access, though it can take some effort to create a cold basement corner.

  • The best method is to use the foundation walls on the northeast corner for two sides.
  • Build the other two walls in the basement with stud and board.
  • Insulate the interior walls, ceiling, and door (and any pipes or ducts) to keep the heat out.
  • Ensure there is a ventilation system that allows cool, fresh air from the outside to be brought into the root cellar and stale air to be exhausted out.

Another option outside the house is to dig down into the ground or horizontally into a hillside. A third option is to create is to bury suitable containers such as metal garbage cans or barrels, leaving about 4 inches exposed at the top. Heap earth around the circumference, then cover the lid with straw or mulch and a sheet of plastic to keep everything dry.

How to Keep It Cool

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.


Root cellars have been used for centuries, before electricity and refrigeration was the norm they were used to keep the harvest good during the winter. While it’s not such a common sight today many rural homes have a root cellar. In a grid down scenario not having refrigeration can literally mean life or death. With a good root cellar or even a simple pot in pot cooler you can prolong the life of your foods and have a greater chance at survival.

How it works:

A root cellar is a great place to store food because of the low temperature and low humidity. This keeps food from freezing in the winter and overheating in the summer. The soil on top of the root cellar the earth acts as the temperature control.

Originally root cellars held mostly vegetables but they can also accommodate certain fruits and beverages. It was not uncommon in past times to have a root cellar full of alcoholic beverages. Some other foods can be kept in a root cellar primarily jams, salted meat, bread, butter, cheese and even milk and cream. Some food like salads, meat and pies can be kept in the root cellar but this will only prolong their life for a short time. Many other foods will sour and rot even if kept in the root cellar.

Some Examples:

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European Food Storage Pits


Article from Joan Shaw of


Some thirty years ago, an international student from eastern Europe remarked to me that what she found most intriguing upon her first trip to the supermarket in the United States was the sight of bins upon bins of fresh fruits and vegetables. There are times when I enter our local markets that I feel equally intrigued, at times near paralyzed, by the choices in the fresh food sections today. Grapefruit from Florida, apples from Australia, blueberries, grapes, peaches, and nectarines from Chile, fresh pineapple from Hawaii, bananas from Central America,  kiwi fruit, mangoes – and that’s just some of the fruit available.

And vegetables? There are sealed bags of scrubbed baby carrots, lettuces of all types, celery, cilantro, and parsley, cucumbers and jalapeno peppers, hot house tomatoes, kale, and turnip greens, broccoli and cauliflower cut up into crowns, bean sprouts, snow peas, green beans, eggplant.

Do I need potatoes, and what type shall I try this week – Yukon Gold? New  red? Idaho Russet? How about cabbage for Saturday night? Should it be winter squash or sweet potatoes or yams on Sunday? They’re all there, I just have to make up my mind. It’s enough to wish myself back into the 1890s.

Okay, so let’s consider the cook at the turn of the century. Winter fare in the fresh vegetable line would not pose too much of a problem because she’s restricted to what can be stored underground, and it was mostly potatoes. Well, the potato bin in the house is empty, but no problem! She has a  pit at the foot of last year’s garden, full of her own crop. It would be a cone-shaped spot perhaps five to six feet in diameter, covered with straw and soil and with a vent in the top. The vent would have had to be kept free to air circulation to guard against mold. A wary lookout for rodents would also be prudent, since they could decimate the entire pile in short order.

Lloyd R. Jorgensen explains in his memoirs, Growing up in Lewiston, the process our pioneer woman’s husband or sons would go through to get a basket of potatoes from this structure – aside, I would think,  from getting out to it through anywhere from a foot to three feet of snow. First they would  clear away the snow, then the soil from the pile, then dig through the straw to get at the potatoes, select enough potatoes to last for a good while – because they wouldn’t want to go through this process too often –  then carefully replace the straw, cover the straw with the displaced soil, being careful to keep the vent in place, and plow back through the snow to the kitchen.

Long time Lewiston resident, Dave Roberts, who was also a boy in the 1920s, remembers that an  ax had to be used occasionally to get through the frozen ground. “But you’d wait until the sun came out, and most of the time you could break out a chunk of frozen dirt with just the shovel. When you got to the straw,” he adds, “you’d be all set.”  Dave’s family dispensed with the vent, and he didn’t remember any real problems with mold.

Storage bin
Cross section of a storage pit, shown right. During severely cold weather the dirt covering may be supplemented by manure. This storage pit has a vent full of straw with a board on top held down by a stone to keep out rain and snow

Lloyd Jorgensen writes that carrots and red beets were sometimes pitted along with the potatoes.  “Cabbages were pitted with straw and dirt,” he adds, “leaving the roots sticking up so they could be pulled out of the pit.” Dave Roberts says that pitted cabbages came out of the trench just as crisp as when they were picked. I imagine in midwinter, with the temperature registering around thirty below, that it would take a bit of shoveling to pull out a couple of  cabbages from the frozen earth. But, on the other hand, it had to be a change from potatoes.

“Apples were pitted by some people around here,” Dave says. “And they kept pretty well, too, although once they came out of the pit, they’d get soft pretty fast.”

When our family first moved into this place in southwest Lewiston, there was a root cellar located east of the house, under the Boxelder tree.  Ethy was twelve or thirteen at the time, Jonathan was around eight, Melanie was around ten. Melanie tells me that Ethy and Jonathan often poked around inside it – it was fairly small, and empty of everything except some derelict potatoes and a lot of leaves. They couldn’t entice her, she tells me now, to set foot on the cobwebby steps since she feared the area down there would be infested with spiders.  And it probably was. I imagine this would be a routine problem – the spiders, that is – with any root cellar, even those with cement floors and walls.

Bergeson root cellar, early 1970s
The Bergeson root Cellar, right before being leveled for a lawn, and right after the sheep once again breached the pasture fence
I’d been taking photographs of the sheep during one of their many escapes from the fenced-in pasture, and so hadn’t been concerned with documenting the root cellar (above), much to my chagrin when starting this piece; so the photos had only tantalizing pieces of the root cellar in the background. But Melanie was able to consolidate two of them to show the entire cellar. You can see now the slightly inclined door into the cellar, the mound above, and the vent on the top. This and other root cellars like it were some of the more primitive types, but were extremely important structures at the turn of the century. The Bergeson’s cellar, situated on the edge of the hill, would also keep fairly dry.

Built partly underground, root cellar walls were usually of wood, or at times of simply the earth itself. The walls  extended to a point just above the surface of the ground. The roof in the colder areas would be covered with straw and soil, and a vent built into the top, right next to the center ridge pole. Unless this structure were built into the side of a hill, steps would be needed to get down inside. Dave remembered having to crawl down into the root cellar in Malad, which would have been in the early 1900s.

Lloyd Jorgensen writes that their Lewiston root cellar held bottled vegetables and fruits put up during the summer and fall before. Winter squash was sometimes stored in the barn under a pile of straw. “Those old Hubbard squash were so hard,” Lloyd writes, “that they had to be broken with an ax, but they were surely good when they were baked.”

Storage cellar
End view of an outdoor storage cellar, showing the frame of posts covered with planks and with soil. Additional protection might have been given by placing manure, straw, or corn fodder on top of the soil
Root cellars could also hold rows of cabbages, and keep carrots and beets fairly well if the humidity were high enough to guard against the vegetables’ drying out. The floors of these structures were often of earth, though the Jorgensen family’s cellar had a cement floor. The entrance of this cellar stood at ground level, however, with the addition of a gable over the door. There were four or five steps down into the cellar itself.

There might be barrels in root cellars filled with salt brine to store bacon and hams. In the more swampy areas of Lewiston, food stored in these cellars was kept up off the floor in order to keep it safe from spring melt water which would invariably creep over the floor in some areas.

Lewiston’s Renee Karren remembers her own root cellar when living on 1600 South where her son, Greg, lives now with his family. It, too, had a cement floor, and though it wasn’t dug deeply into the ground, every February the cellar would be sloshing with water. It was the source of perennial spring exasperation with ground water. “We’d no sooner pump it out,” she reports, “than it would be back in again,” The answer?  “We stored everything two feet off the floor!” – two feet being the high water mark of the February thaw.

The Cadillac of root cellars in Lewiston was built above ground, with thick masonry  walls. Dave Roberts remembers seeing as a young man the root cellar attached to Delecta Karren’s house on 1421 South Main, now owned by the Troy Karren family. This cellar can be accessed from inside the house, is made of cement, is still used for storage, and unlike the Karren root cellar less than a mile away, remains dry during our soggy Lewiston springs.

Masonry root cellars are still being used elsewhere in the valley. Niels Bergeson built a root cellar under the oldest part of our house here, and although it was from the beginning underground, a true cellar, the fact it was built on the edge of the hill seems to have eliminated the ground water problem. The walls are of huge rocks, plastered in between. It’s an indispensable storage area for us; I don’t know what we’d do without it. However, the freezer’s down there, and much of our food storage ends up in the freezer, as is true with most families today.

Memories of storage pits and root cellars, then, join the other memories of life 75 to 100 years ago. Nostalgic and fascinating for us to read about as they all are, they find us not too eager to go back to experiencing them as a way of life. Things like the one- or two-room schoolhouse with the privies outside, for instance, the frigid sleigh and wagon rides to church and work, the endless spinning and weaving in order to make a shirt, and the home-made herbal remedies for truly life threatening diseases, these are the things that serve as reminders of the toughness and ingenuity bred into the women and men who settled and made their homes in the American West.


The book written by Lloyd Jorgensen and mentioned in this piece, Growing up in Lewiston, 1921 to 1939, I’ve found to be an engaging collection of Lewiston memories that should be an eye-opener to the younger citizens of Lewiston as well as a source of nostalgia for the long-time residents.  His clear description of the root cellar of his youth was the inspiration for this piece on storage, but the whole book is great fun to read.

A copy of Lloyd Jorgensen’s book can be found in the Lewiston Library and in USU’s Special Collections.


PYKRETE and other experimental ideas for storage


An Idea i have been tossing around is experimenting with Pykrete for a underground root cellar.  Pyrkrete is a composite of sawdust and ice.  It was designed in WWII for be used to make a unsinkable ice aircraft carrier.  An article on Pykrete from WIki is here PYKRETE


I personally feel that if you dug into the side of a hill, into the ground, as you normally would for a earthen root cellar, but then using ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) and slowly poured in Pyrkete mix, during the coolest part of winter, and buried it, that if there was sufficient insulation, and done in an area where there was little to no sunlight in the summers that it could be used throughout the warmest parts of the year to store food and keep vegetables.


I wish to try this over the summer, but if you know of someone who has, OR are wish to try this as well, let me know.


Mechanical properties Ice Concrete Pykrete
Crushing strength [MPa] 3.447 17.240 7.584
Tensile strength [MPa] 1.103 1.724 4.826
Density [kg/m³] 910 2500 980


People have been storing ice well before the advent of the home freezer. You can still store it without electricity, and you can store it in your own back yard with an eco-friendly ice house. An ice house can be used as a non-electric deep freeze. If you can’t resist the Schwan man’s wares, an ice house might be for you.

What You’ll Need

-Concrete Masonry Units

-Sheets of Wood


-Recycled Shingles

-Straw or Sawdust


-Tape Measure


- Nails

- Hinges

- Handle

- An Old Tire

What You’ll Do

First, the ice house needs to be in a shady spot. Find one in your yard. If you have a garage, I recommend building the ice house near the garage. You can build an overhang or trellis off of the garage wall to increase the shadiness over your ice house.

The size of the ice house is dependent on the amount of ice that you need. It doesn’t have to be house-sized. In ye good olde days, people kept ice through the summer months by packing sawdust over ice and throwing a tarp on top of it. Your ice house doesn’t have to be much fancier or larger.

The ice, however, has to be about fifteen to twenty inches away from the walls. So the length of your ice house should be: 15in + the size of your ice + 15in. Let’s say that you want to want to store a 2 x 2 x 2 chunk of ice. That means your ice house would need to be 54 inches long, high and wide. Use math to figure for different amounts of ice.

Now that you’ve figured for size, you will need a shovel. Dig a hole a few inches larger than the planned sized of your ice house. You’ll want to fill the hole with concrete masonry units, aka cinderblocks. The tops of the cinderblocks should be six inches below the earth’s surface. Put floor planks above the cinderblocks at a slight angle so water can drain.

Now you need to build walls. Build a skeletal wall with eight to ten 2x4s. They should each go about a foot into the ground. Make a note of the when picking out lumber. These stout planks will be the support for you walls. Reinforce them with concrete if necessary. Use wood sheets for walls.

Now build another wall on the inside of your first wall. There should be some space between the two walls. Fill this space with sawdust or straw.

Remember to build a hatch to retrieve and load ice. The hatch door should be as thick as both walls combined. Use the hinges to mount the hatch door. Nail a handle on the hatch.

Cut up an old tire. Put rubber strips where the hatch meets the frame in order to make the hatch door snug. This will add insulation.

Put a roof on top of the ice shanty. Slant the roof to the north. Insulate the roof by putting recycled shingles on it. Once you’ve shingled the roof, paint it white. This reflects heat and reduces climate change.

Now fill the floor of the ice house with sawdust or straw. The sawdust or straw should be about fifteen inches deep.

All that’s left is the ice. You’ll have to harvest that yourself.

Another article on Ice Houses

Since the early 1800′s the icehouse has been one of the self-sufficient, non-electric homestead most valuable storage buildings. The structure has taken many shapes and forms over the years but all have been calculated to do the same thing: exclude heat and outside air while running out water from the slowly melting ice.

Icehouses are easy to build in a permafrost area: “just” dig a few feet into the continuously frozen ground. In the temperate zone where most of us live, however, it’s a somewhat different story. . . although there’s nothing complicated about the theory or construction of such a building.

The old-timers in New England sometimes stored their ice in a heavily walled stone structure set into the north side of a hill. Folks in other parts of the country such as Virginia more frequently favored a frame building within a building well-insulated with sawdust, wood shavings, hay, bark or (more recently) rock wool. Since the second type of house is probably easier for a duffer to build, we’ll consider the frame design more closely.

You’ll naturally want to determine how big to make your icehouse before you start gathering the necessary building materials for its construction . . . and size depends on how much ice you expect to use . . . which, in turn, hinges on the number in your family and their consumption habits. One source states that and average family should pack away between 500 and 700 cubic, feet (10 to 14 tons) of ice a year. That take an icehouse with inside dimensions of 12 x 12 x 8 or 10 x 14 x 8. Outside dimensions should be at least two feet longer and wider than these figures and if you keep cows you’d better double the amount of ice right in front.

Once you’ve settled on a size for your building, plan to locate the structure near your main house in as shady a spot as possible. Under a tree is good, as is a site on the north side of a hill . . . or you can always build a trellis over the building later and train ivy or other vines to cover the latticework. If you try the latter method, keep the trellis at least a foot from. the building beneath (this creates a space for cool air to circulate).

Your first actual construction step will be the pouring or setting of 6? to 12?-thick footings reaching below the frost line around the base of the proposed icehouse. A concrete or, plank floor should then be installed to slant toward a drain cleaner in one corner of the buildings inner chamber (ice melts faster when it stands in water). The drain to keep cold air in and warm air out should be of the trapped variety.

The outside walls of your big cold storage box can be standard 2 x 4 stud construction covered with board-and-batten or tongue-and-groove siding and a simple shed roof, slanted to the north, is all you need to top the building. Do be sure to frame out a door and ventilate the structure well at its peak under the eaves, however. So much for the house . . . now for the house within.

Build a rectangular framework of 2 x 4′s, 10 to 20 inches (or big enough for a man to walk through) in from each outside wall. Board up this inside box, put a ceiling on it and frame out a door to match the one in the outside wall. Pack the space between the inside and outside walls with sawdust, shavings, tanbark, hay or rock wool and stack a foot or two of insulation on top of the inside room (leaving enough space between the top of the insulation and the roof for air to circulate).

Make the door or doors (one big one may be too heavy and you might prefer to split it in two across the center) as thick as the space between the inner and outer walls and pack it or them with insulation. Add a suitable outside and inside latch and your icehouse is finished.

Install a few shelves (to hold food) along an inner wall, if you desire, and put a one to two-foot-thick layer of sawdust on the floor. Your building is ready for ice!

Some old-timers advise cutting ice off a lake or pond when the surface has frozen only about eight inches thick (because the thinner chunks are easier to handle). Others say to wait until the ice is two feet through. All seem to agree that first-frozen ice (rather than that which has been allowed to thaw and refreeze a number of times) is best . . . and the larger the cake, the slower it melts.

Pick a cold, dry, windy day for your ice cutting (to lessen the chances of your chunks melting and sticking together).

Scrape off the snow and plane any soft, porous ice away from the area of the lake’s surface that you plan to harvest. Mark the hard ice you intend to cut into blocks (two feet by two or three feet is a good size) with a series of grooves about three inches deep . . . and have at it.

The first block should be cut with a handsaw and pulled out or pushed under to get it out of the way. The rest of the chunks can be sheared off with a horse-drawn plow or crosscut saw. Once a long strip of ice has been cut loose, it can be crosssplit into blocks with an ice axe, chisel and crowbar.

Make a ramp or runway from the water to your wagon, truck or sled and pull the blocks right out of the water with tongs or a hook. When you’ve got a load, take it back to the icehouse and start filling the structure.

Put down one layer of ice at a time, pack each block in sawdust and make sure it doesn’t touch its neighbors. Hold the outside blocks eight to twelve inches from the walls and as each tier is finished fill in and around it with sawdust and cover each layer of ice with four to six inches of the ground wood. Repeat until the ice-sawdust is stacked to within a foot of the ceiling (and finished off, of course, with a layer of sawdust).

As you need ice, all you do is go in and get it . . . letting in as little of the warm outside air as possible and always remembering to leave what’s left covered with sawdust. The next winter, when you’re ready to refill the house, haul the old sawdust out to the compost heap or the garden and pack the new ice with fresh ground wood.

The above information came, in part, from HOUSEHOLD DISCOVERIES, by Sidney Morse (1914, The Success Co.), THE SEASONS OF AMERICA PAST, by Eric Sloane (Wilfred Funk, Inc., N.Y.), Mother Jones, 1970 and MECHANIX ILLUSTRATED, October, 1969.


Storage of Home-Grown Vegetables


by J.E. Ells, C.J. Jorgensen and D. Whiting1(3/08)

Quick Facts…

  • Many home-grown vegetables lend themselves to storage.
  • Storing vegetables can be quicker, easier and more economical than canning, freezing or dehydrating.
  • Root Crops store best where they are grown until there is a danger of soil freezing.
  • Storage facilities can be constructed at little or no cost.

Storing vegetables produced in the home Garden can be easier, quicker and more economical than freezing, canning or dehydrating them. The storage facilities can be built at little or no cost. Stored vegetables can represent considerable savings in food dollars.


Root Crops store best where they are grown until there is a danger of soil freezing. Postpone harvesting by hilling the soil over the shoulders of carrots and beets to protect from freezing. If straw and soil are piled over the row as insulation, harvest may be delayed even longer. While in the row, the vegetables are readily accessible and the time and damage associated with harvesting and storage are circumvented. Dig the remaining roots before the soil freezes, top, clean, and put into storage.

Harvest onions soon after the tops fall over. Pull the onions, remove the tops, and cure the onions in mesh bags or crates where they have good air circulation until the necks dry down. When they rustle upon handling, they are ready to move to a cool, dry storage area.

Do not harvest winter squash and pumpkins until the vines are frost-killed and the skin is hard to the thumbnail. Leave stems on the fruit to protect against disease invasion.

Barrel storage
Figure 1: An outdoor barrel storage pit.

Parsnips will withstand freezing. Leave part of the crop in the ground and dig in the spring when the flavor is greatly improved.

Kale and collards can be left in the Garden long after the first fall frost. Harvest as needed until the foliage finally succumbs to cold weather. Wind protection will prolong its usefulness.

Celery and late cabbage may be harvested after the frost has stopped their growth. Pull celery with its roots attached. Cut cabbage and remove the loose outer leaves.


Root Crops, including potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, winter radishes, kohlrabi and parsnips, adapt to home storage. This group stores best at near freezing with a high relative humidity. Store onions near freezing but with a low relative humidity to discourage neck rot. Leafy Crops such as celery and cabbage may also be stored. Store them by themselves — they give off ethylene gas while in storage, which has proven detrimental to other vegetables.

Celery may be harvested and stored directly in trenches that are dug for that purpose. Pull the celery plants and pack them upright in the trench. Cover with paper, boards and soil. They will root, bleach, tenderize and develop a nutty flavor when removed in late December.

Pack cabbage upside down so the covering soil does not work into the heads.

Pumpkins and winter squash store longer at 50 to 60 degrees F and a low relative humidity.

Mound storage
Figure 2: A storage mound.

When selecting vegetables for storage, discard any unsound produce. This includes immature, damaged or diseased specimens. Also, when using vegetables from storage, check over the produce and discard any showing signs of rot. If allowed to remain, they will affect adjacent sound produce.

Outdoor Pit

This pit may be either lined or unlined. A lined pit is one that is sealed against ground water and rodents. This may be a barrel buried semi-horizontally in the ground (Figure 1). Place the roots in the barrel and put the lid loosely in place to allow for air transfer. Cover the barrel with straw held in place by a layer of soil. The straw may be 1 to 3 feet deep, depending upon the amount of cold that must be endured.

In the unlined pit, the roots are piled on a layer of straw and the pile is covered with straw held in place by a layer of soil. The unlined pit must be dug in an area where water will not fill the pit and where rodents are not a problem.

Storage Mound

A storage mound (see Figure 2) is similar to the unlined pit. It is used where groundwater is a problem or where only a short storage period under mild temperatures is anticipated. The vegetables are piled on a layer of straw on top of the ground. The mound then is covered with a layer of straw that is held in place by a layer of soil. The mound usually contains one or two bushels of mixed roots, so when the mounds are removed, all the produce can be taken into the house.

Basement storage
Figure 3: A basement storage area in the corner of a basement with a window. Walls are three sheets of 4 x 8-foot 3/8-inch plywood. Cut a 7-foot x 32-inch door in one sheet. Insulate the ceiling and interior walls. Build shelves and bins around all walls inside the storage area. Leave a small walkway near the door.

House Cellar

The root cellar under the house was the most popular means for storing vegetables before the days of central heating. However, acceptable storage can be constructed in a heated basement by partitioning off a storage room that includes a basement window (see Figure 3). Insulate the ceiling and walls of the room and open or close the window to provide the desired temperature. The temperature should be between 33 and 45 degrees. Add bins and shelves for efficient storage.

Root vegetables store best at high humidities, and onions, pumpkins and squash at lower humidities. Pack root Crops in bins with moist sand or vermiculite. These are preferable to organic materials because they don’t decompose and are easier to handle than soil. Store dahlia roots and gladiolus corms dry in bins with perlite or vermiculite until spring.

1J.E. Ells, Colorado State University Extension vegetable crop specialist and associate professor (retired); C.J. Jorgensen, former associate professor; horticulture and landscape architecture. Reviewed by D. Whiting, Extension consumer horticulture specialist, master gardener coordinator and resident instructor. 11/92. Reviewed 3/08.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.


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