This is the time of year I find myself taking more food from storage than putting away. A well-stocked pantry and root cellar provides a sense of security knowing that we’ll have local food to eat throughout the winter. This is especially important for those times we’re snowed in or can’t get to the farmers’ market. However, if you’re accustomed to shopping on a weekly or daily basis, planning and storing food for the winter can be a daunting task. The amounts of food some suggest can seem enough to feed a proverbial army.
Both MOFGA’s fact sheet, Storing Garden Vegetables, and article, Root Cellars: Safe and Secure from the Corporate Food Train, are good places to start. “Root Cellars” suggests the following quantities for a family of four:
Quantities and Varieties
Perhaps the biggest question regarding root-cellaring is how much food youll need… I recommend starting small perhaps with a second refrigerator in the garage or basement. If your family is more adventurous and eager to commit to eating the way our great, great grandparents did, you might start with these quantities for a family of four:
Apples: 5 bushels
Carrots: 40 to 60 pounds
Cabbage: green, 20 heads; red, 10 heads
Beets: 20 pounds
Celeriac: (celery root, use instead of celery) 10 to 20 heads
Leeks: 40 plants
Potatoes: 100 pounds or more
Jerusalem artichoke: 10 pounds
Onions: 40 pounds
Garlic: 10 to 20 pounds
Winter radish: 10
Parsnip: 20 pounds
Squash: 40 Delicata and 30 pounds butternut
Pumpkin: 5 to 10
Turnip and rutabaga: 10 or more
For my family of two, I started by dividing these quantities in half. I usually skip the few vegetables we either seldom eat or have difficulty finding, and increase the ones we favor. The first time I used this list, I discovered that the amounts of carrots, garlic and onions were not enough to take me through to the next season. These are what I think of as the seasoning vegetables, the ones I reach for on almost a daily basis. To adjust for this, I simply doubled the amounts for these vegetables. In practical terms, we tend to have more potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, and less Jerusalem artichokes and winter radishes. And I always overbuy on winter squashes, one of my weaknesses.
With a full schedule of Winter Farmers’ Markets ahead of us, there’s still plenty of opportunity to stock up see you at the Winter Farmer’s Markets!
UNH Cooperative Extension, Harvesting and Preserving provides instruction, also many links to other cooperative extensions located in cold places.
“Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables” by Mike and Nancy Bubel (Chelsea Publishing, 1979) the bible of planning and building a root cellar.
“Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation” by Sharon Astyk (New Society Publishers, 2009) the new kid on the block and a welcome update; I particularly like the chapter on “The Food Preserver’s Year” and it’s description of what to do when.