Anyone hunting for a home in the last decade was sure to get an earful about the wine cellar. The abundance of local farmers' markets and even our own vegetable gardens has us thinking, will the root cellar become the new wine cellar? We think it should.

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Root cellars predate refrigeration, taking advantage of the earth’s natural cooling, insulating, and humidifying properties to protect and extend the life of food stores.

Photo courtesy by Erin Boyle

While sturdy root vegetables are great candidates for cellaring, many other vegetables and fruits from the fall bounty can be stored.

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Photo courtesy of The Rigneys

Particularly good are biennial vegetables, from plants that flower and set seed during the following season, meaning they’re programmed for long storage. That includes members of the squash family, apples, beets, potatoes and onions.

The simplest strategy for creating a root cellar may be to utilize your basement - or a corner of it. This can be done at little expense with the addition of shelves, bins, and other storage containers preferably placed in the dampest spot and against exterior walls that are in contact with soil (for the optimal temperature and humidity conditions).

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To keep carrots and beets fresh, alternate layers of vegetables with moist sand or sawdust.

Photo courtesy of Gardener's Supply Co.

Store vegetables and fruits in containers that allow air to circulate from top to bottom, such as natural baskets, wooden crates, and racks with spacing.

Photo courtesy of Gardener's Supply Co.

Photo courtesy of Plain English

The temperature in a root cellar is never uniform; typically it gets warmer the higher you go. Consider your placement of produce accordingly, putting those that tolerate warmer temperatures well, such as onions, garlic, and shallots higher up.