Root cellar

Root cellar

A root cellar is a structure originating before the advent of electricity to store vegetables. They are still used today on a commercial scale to store seed potatoes during the winter, while on a private scale families still maintain small cellars.


Root cellar are for keeping food supplies at a low temperature and steady humidity to keep from freezing during the winter, and keeping food supplies cool during the summer months. Typically, a variety of vegetables would be placed in the root cellar in the autumn, after the harvesting of the vegetable gardens had been completed. A secondary use for the root cellar is as a place in which to store home made alcoholic beverages.

The main vegetables stored in the root cellar consisted of potatoes, turnip, and carrot. Although some people did store cabbage in the root cellar, most did not as cabbage had a tendency to rot if not pickled first. Other food supplies placed in the root cellar over the winter months included beets, preserves/jams, salt meat, salt turbot, and salt herring. Separate cellars are occasionally seen for storing fruits, such as apples. Food supplies were kept in the root cellar in the summer months to avoid spoilage. Water, bread, butter, milk, and cream were often stored in the root cellar so that these items could be used more than once by the family. In addition, items such as salad greens, fresh meat, and jam pies were kept in the root cellar early in the day, so that they could keep cool until they were needed for supper.


Common construction methods are:

#Digging down into the ground and erecting a shed or house over the cellar (access is via a trap door in the shed).
#Digging into the side of a hill (easier to excavate and facilitates water drainage).
#Building a structure at ground level and piling rocks, earth, and/or sod around and over it. This may be easier to build on rocky terrain where excavation is difficult.

Most root cellars were built using stone, wood, mortar (cement), and sod. Newer ones may be made of concrete with sod on top.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • root cellar — n. an underground storage room for vegetables, esp. root crops …   English World dictionary

  • root cellar — root′ cel lar n. a cellar, often underground and usu. covered with dirt, where root crops and other vegetables are stored • Etymology: 1815–25 …   From formal English to slang

  • root cellar — a cellar, partially or wholly underground and usually covered with dirt, where root crops and other vegetables are stored. [1815 25] * * * …   Universalium

  • root cellar — noun an excavation where root vegetables are stored (Freq. 1) • Syn: ↑cellar • Hypernyms: ↑excavation, ↑storage space * * * noun, pl ⋯ lars [count] chiefly US : a room or large hole in the ground where vegetables (such as potatoes and carrots)… …   Useful english dictionary

  • root cellar — noun Date: 1810 a pit used for the storage especially of root crops …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • The Root Cellar — infobox Book | name = The Root Cellar title orig = translator = image caption = author = Janet Lunn illustrator = cover artist = country = Canada language = English series = genre = Children s historical novel publisher = Lester and Orpen Dennys… …   Wikipedia

  • cellar — cellarless, adj. /sel euhr/, n. 1. a room, or set of rooms, for the storage of food, fuel, etc., wholly or partly underground and usually beneath a building. 2. an underground room or story. 3. See wine cellar. 4. Sports. the lowest position in a …   Universalium

  • cellar — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ damp, dark ▪ old ▪ deep, underground ▪ vaulted ▪ coal …   Collocations dictionary

  • Storm cellar — on the Texas plains. A storm shelter or storm cellar is a type of underground bunker designed to protect the occupants from violent severe weather, particularly tornadoes. They are most commonly seen in the US Midwest ( Tornado Alley ) and… …   Wikipedia

  • cold cellar — noun Northeast : a room or section of a cellar where root crops may be stored over winter at temperatures slightly above freezing * * * Chiefly Northeastern U.S. root cellar. [1960 65, Amer.] …   Useful english dictionary

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