Seaside – Jan/Feb/March 2018
Olympia – Jan/Feb 2018

The Complete Root Cellar Book

Book Cover for The Complete Root Cellar Book

If you’re like the editors here at realfoodtraveler, you grow at least some of your own food.

How else can you get the freshest tomatoes, the crispest lettuce, the juiciest zucchini? Even if you don’t have a garden, you likely shop at farmer’s markets or local veggie and fruit stands in season. But what do you do when you have a bushel of potatoes that all come ripe at once? How do you keep those four dozen heads of garlic or those bags and bags of apples from going bad? What about those two lugs of peaches you just couldn’t resist from the local fruit stand? One answer is a root cellar and the book to tell you everything about them is The Complete Root Cellar Book (Robert Rose, 2010).

Root cellars have long been a low-tech way to keep food fresh for months at a time. Before refrigeration and freezing, root cellars were part of many homes, especially those in rural areas where people raised their own food. Today, people looking for a practical, sustainable way to keep food will find The Complete Root Cellar Book is a positive back-to-the-future that takes the mystery out of building and using root cellars.

If you believe the book’s co-authors, Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie, anyone can have and use a root cellar. They provide practical plans for building root cellars in new or existing homes (“cold rooms”), in basements, underground, outdoors, in condos and townhouses, and even in warm climates. They write: “There’s something hard-wired into the human heart that loves to lavish care and attention on food and in turn to love food that has had care lavished upon it. If that resonates with you, you’re part of a growing fraternity.

The Complete Root Cellar Book will show you how to construct a root cellar that will work for you,k how to keep the food stored in your cellar wholesome and how to prepare that food in fabulous ways.” To that, RFT says here, here!

Red Apples hanging from tree

Fall apples store well in a root cellar and produce sweet rewards all winter. — Photo Yvette Cardozo

Once you’ve selected your type of root cellar and used the book’s detailed instructions for constructing it, the authors tell you how to store food in your root cellar. Who knew you couldn’t just pop that food into the dark without worry? Not so. You’ve got to be concerned about things like damaged fruit and veggies, rot, and even pests. The Complete Root Cellar Book tells you how to prepare different foods for storage and gives a handy Optimal Storage List that tells you, by product, how to store indoors or out, special storage instructions, expected storage life, and the type of conditions (e.g. cold/moist, cool/dry, warm/dry, etc.) needed for good storage.

The second half of the root cellar book may be this reviewer’s favorite – all kinds of delicious-sounding recipes you can make from your root cellar stash. There are recipes for root Cellar Medley Soup, Sweet and Tangy Beet and Carrot Salad, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Turkey Breast with Apple Sausage Stuffing, Spiced Pumpkin Loaf, and condiments like Preserved Oranges and Limes. The Complete Root Cellar Book

After reading The Complete Root Cellar Book this reviewer is not sure I’d ever build a root cellar (though it’s long been a fantasy). The book has opened my eyes to the fact that storing fresh food for months at a time is serious — and sometimes complicated — business. However, for back-to-nature types who are willing to put in the effort to build and use a root cellar, The Complete Root Cellar Book is an invaluable resource.

The Complete Root Cellar Book: Building Plans, Uses, and 100 Recipes by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie, $24.95, is available in bookstores.

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Bobbie Hasselbring

RFT founder and the website's former editor-in-chief, Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. She's been an award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook.