Storing root crops, onions, garlic, and squashes in a cool environment is the easiest and most time- and cost-effective storage method available. When stored properly, the food retains its original taste and nutritional value.
An ordinary basement provides the minimum conditions needed for storing certain vegetables and fruits, including apples, pumpkins, and winter squash for several months and garlic, onions, and potatoes for much of the winter.
Indoor and outdoor root cellars and other types of storage places present more optimal conditions. There are several low-cost options for creating optimal storage facilities, such as construction of a simple basement storage room, outdoor cellar, or temporary pits. (Consult specific books and pamphlets on root cellaring to find plans for these facilities.)
Some storage crops thrive on cool temperatures and moist conditions. Others need slightly warmer, dryer conditions.
Humidity conditions can be monitored with a hygrometer, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. Humidity can be adjusted by packing storage vegetables in damp materials or by placing pans of water in a cold storage room or root cellar.
Even under optimal conditions, though, a small percentage of cold storage produce will spoil at some point. It is important to periodically check cold storage produce and remove spoiled foods.
The following is excerpted from FairShare’s “From Asparagus to Zucchini” cookbook. Check out the book, “Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables,” by Mike and Nancy Bubel, for thorough coverage of this topic.
Cold and moist conditions (32-40 degrees with 90-95 percent humidity): Root vegetables need to have their tops (greens) cut off before storage. They should also be placed in containers of damp sand, peat moss, sawdust, or leaves.
Cold and moist conditions (38-40 degrees with 80-90 percent humidity):
Note: Do not store apples with potatoes, as they may cause potatoes to sprout.
Cool and dry conditions (32-50 degrees with 60-70 percent humidity):
Moderately warm and dry conditions (50-60 degrees with 60-75 percent humidity):