I'm interested in building a root cellar, but I think I might also be able to take advantage of some existing climates in my house? For example, my back hall is fairly cool in winter - maybe not cool enough, though (I'm guessing 58-59F).
Still, I wonder if it's cool enough for short-term storage.. or maybe certain warmer items (I could be wrong but I think squash might store fine at that temperature). So what do people do, get a thermometer and put it in a different place for a day and watch the temp twice a day?
And what about moisture? Root cellaring techniques give an ideal temperature but also an ideal humidity for storage. How do I know what humidity a particular place is?
If we do build a root cellar, do I really have to be visiting it twice a day? The book I'm reading makes it seem like it... to open or shut the vents depending on the weather, etc. My vision is very poor and our basement steps are 105 years old. I just really honestly have no desire to be going up and down those stairs twice a day all winter. I probably just won't do it. And maybe I'll lose the food investment. Another worry is mice - our house is clean and there is no sign of mice in our living area, but there are signs of mice in the basement.
Anyway, just curious about your thoughts. I have other places in my home that I will visit more often, and where I can keep a better eye on the food - like the back hall, or the closet under the stairs (which is also probably under 60F but, again, maybe not cold enough for anything). I also have enclosed porches but while they are protected from precipitation and wind, they are not protected from temperature or sun - so probably not good for anything. I also have a pantry, very near the under-the-stairs-closet, and a bit warmer than that actually, where I have been storing a few pounds each of carrots, potatoes and sweet potatos for a week with good results thus far (have them covered from light). They don't seem to be softening or shriveling. But they probably wouldn't last all winter there of course.
I think it's possible to take advantage of cooler places in the house without resorting to a basement or a full-on cellar. The mice and stairs are good reasons NOT to use your basement.
Stable temps do a lot, even if it's not seriously cold. Humidity is important for some foods, but I have a feeling good air circulation is more important. Some foods release gasses as they are stored and if they sit around in stagnant air they will spoil more quickly.
Things like winter squash and potatoes do well in 50s temps, and good air circulation is essential. Carrots, other roots, and cabbage like some humidity, but cooler air generally has higher humidity.
Maybe you can "fake" a humid environment with moist towels under the foods? I've heard of storing cabbages upside down and filling the depression that forms in the stem with water every so often to keep them hydrated.
The floor is almost always colder than anything elevated off the floor. In my cabin there are corners where the floor is so cold that a glass jar resting on it stays quite chilly. I jokingly call it "the mini fridge."
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