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Friday, November 20, 2009

Root Cellar Part 2

Part 2

Understand that by adding plenty of nitrogen to the soil apart from adding plenty of leaves, grass, food scraps, vines, etc., you're doing more harm than good. The soil's nitrogen content is required by the bacteria feeding on organic matter, and, if you're going to give these bacteria a nitrogen feast, it would be very desirable if there's an organic target in the soil other than the roots of your vegetables!

As organic scraps (compost) in the soil are broken down by bacteria, heat is released, which happens to be the magic pill that makes plants grow (or the overdose causing root burn). For, as the heat expands in the soil, it forces its way into roots. As it does so, it pushes along all the soil’s chemicals dissolved in ground water, and, if the root system can accept the molecules, they will be forced further up by the same heat energy, into the stems and leaves.

The more heat in the soil, the more that water and chemical nutrients enter the root system and pass through the stems, and the larger and more-succulent the plants will tend to grow. Of course, heat may be added to the soil in other ways aside from nitrogen-consuming bacteria. Remember this key for your greenhouse, and keep the soil warm. Elevated tables, off the cold floor, are ideal. If there is not enough nitrogen in the soil, nor enough organic matter, heat production will be stunted, and plant growth will suffer accordingly.

If plants take in too much water in relation to nutrients, they will not last as long in the cellar, stressing the importance of a garden soil that drains well. Don't over-water. Clearly, aside from root-cellaring information, you must get a book which discusses soil preparation. Many books on vegetable gardening will include a section on preparing soil, but this section is sometimes too elementary.

Cold storage decreases the natural metabolism of fresh food so that it doesn't age itself into mush. But, of course! For, if adding heat causes plants to grow, removing heat causes growth (all chemical reactions) to be suspended. Aside from infections, fruits and vegetables can be destroyed by their natural respiration process, as the addition of oxygen changes their chemical states into something we don't care to eat. Darn oxygen! It’s great for life, but also has this thorny tendency to oxidize everything into ruin.

In some cases, vitamins are also lost with the said respiration process. Blanching (dipping in hot water), or other treatments, will retard/stop aging. Peas only require one minute in boiling water to stop the aging process, but corn on the cob needs 10 minutes. Most other vegetables fall between these two extremes. Blanching is a good way to save foods that are about to go bad, when no other preservation method is available to save them. However, if you like fresh carrots and apples as opposed to cooked, or partially cooked, ones, build yourself an excellent root cellar.

Cold weather at the garden site at harvest time is a positive factor because vegetables are prone to store more sugars and starch and less water in these periods. Having a lower water content, they are also have more stuff, and this keeps their water content from evaporating as easily on the shelf. Mike and Nancy suggest leaving the vegetables in the soil as long as possible by covering them with 12 to 18 inches of mulch (dried leaves, grass, straw, etc.) to keep them from freezing. As they can be kept in the ground for two to four weeks longer by this method, not only are they skirting deterioration all the while, as would be the case on a cellar shelf, but they are storing up more sugars and starch so that they last longer on that shelf when ultimately placed there.

Freezing is fine for some fresh vegetables and destructive to others (e.g. potatoes). However, you'll want to avoid completely, with all vegetables, the repeated freezing and thawing that can take place in root cellars from warm spell to cold spell and back to warm. You’ll solve that problem if you build a section of your root cellar that never freezes during these wavering spells on either side of the winter deep-freeze (i.e. on either side of January/February).

With so much time on our hands in the tribulation, there's no reason why we couldn't reap additional benefits by replanting some vegetables in the cellar, after the winter temperatures become too hazardous for their outdoor existence. Of course, don't replant them in the hardened soil floor, but in cases filled with sand or loose soil. This will keep some rooted vegetables for up to one month longer. Or, you can simply heap the vegetables on the cellar floor and cover them with damp, loose soil. Mike and Nancy bury some vegetables in moist saw dust. When needed, they also drape moist cloths over-top of the bushels or crates of food.

Bring most vegetables and fruits into the root cellar immediately after harvesting. Some vegetables, however, such as onions and garlic, need to be dried in the sun for a week before dry-cellar storage. Squash and pumpkins need two weeks in the sun to develop a hard rind, and they need a warm cellar. Sweet potatoes also need to be cured. If you didn't know these basic things, then you need an appropriate book before you spoil your first harvest learning the hard way. Go to http://www.amazon.com, and search for Mike and Nancy Bubel.

Do not clean the vegetables before storage as this will risk bruising. Leave them covered in a layer of dirt if that is how they arrive. Shake off large clumps of dirt, of course, but be gentle. To reduce the clumps, harvest in dry weather. Do not cut the tips of roots off or slice any parts of perfect vegetables as this will invite bacteria to form colonies. Cut off most of the leafy stems of root vegetables to inhibit the escape of water, but leave an inch to keep bacteria from getting into the tops of roots. The tops of beets and parsnips are themselves edible, so take advantage.

If 33% or more of the cellar food is spoiling, something is very wrong. The culprit is likely humidity, temperature, or ventilation. A small percentage of waste is expected so that we should plan on it by growing more to offset. As there will likely be a lack of food in the tribulation, eat the foods that are spoiling first. Cut out the bad parts and discard, or cook them if they are merely bruised. You can even make a nice syrup, sauce, or juice by squeezing any fruit/vegetable that is just beginning to go bad. There are fewer cases of food poisoning from vegetable-based bacteria, though dangerous toxins can be produced from some molds. Beware the deadly botulism. 65% who get it don't live through it. This micro-organism grows where oxygen is absent, and that means there's a chance that every vacuum-packed jar or plastic wrap might contain it. If the can or lid is bloated, don't eat it. If it smells bad, don't eat it. If you're going to die with glorifying God, try to die peacefully.

Make your cellar 12 x 12 feet if you have the gumption. You might make two of them that large, side by side, one drier than the other. Plan on storing enough preserved foods for two years, and view the fresh produce as a bonus. Initially, consider all "strange" Christians who comes knocking for food and shelter as your friends and fellow-laborers. If they won't work and be helpful, however, and all they do is eye lustfully at all that you have, why should you feed them? But if they work, then remember that God did not command Israel to care for widows and the fatherless only, but also aliens. Therefore, a "stranger" that is a sheep is your brother or sister that you must care for; it is the foolish virgins that can be sent away.

The following are root-cellar products that are best stored in cold and very moist conditions (32-40 degrees F and 90-95% relative humidity):

Beets, collards, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, carrots, turnips, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, celery, salsify, celeriac, parsley, Brussels sprouts, leeks, and kohlrabi.

The following products do best in the same temperatures but at a slightly reduced humidity (80-90%):

Potatoes, endive, escarole, cabbage, cauliflower, quince, apples, pears, oranges, grapefruit, and grapes.

The following do best in 40-45-degree cellars with a relative humidity of 85-90%:

Cucumbers, cantaloupe, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelon, and sweet peppers.

Reduce the temperature and humidity of the following vegetables (35-40 degrees and 60-70%):

Garlic, onions and green soybeans in the pod.

The following need high temperatures and lower humidity (50-60 degrees and 60-70%):

Hot peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, and green tomatoes.

You're not going to have a separate root cellar for every different category, but you can work around the less-than-ideal conditions in a number of ways. If the temperature is too cold for some foods, take them out and put them in the attic or an enclosed porch. You can also section off the pantry to have two different temperature conditions. Use your wit to create different places around your house which provide the best possible endurance conditions for various crops, and don't forget you'll have prayer-power at God's disposal when all else fails, so long as you make reasonable efforts of your own.

The following list provides the near upper limits of preservation times for vegetables kept in their ideal conditions, so long as they are kept in air-tight wraps or covered with a damp material (saw dust, towel, dirt, etc.). If you know temperature and/or humidity conditions will not be ideal, reduce their shelf life accordingly. Remember that they will often remain edible longer than the times given. Although every case will not be exactly the same, use this list as a guide for determining how many vegetables of certain kinds you will plant.

For example, the guide makes it plain that you should plant lots of potatoes and carrots as they might last 4-6 months, while you wouldn't plant too much broccoli since it keeps in a good condition only for weeks. Where specific times were not available, I have entered "long keeper" or "good keeper," and you can plan on growing lots of these with confidence. Leafy vegetables are not included as they are generally not good keepers in their fresh states, not at all meaning that you shouldn't plant any (you can always preserve them in other ways). Remember also that you can extend the upper limits by keeping them in the garden longer while protecting them from freezes, or by replanting them on the cellar shelf/floor.

Don't be fooled by writers who give carrots, for example, a mere 7-14 days in the refrigerator, even when wrapped in plastic bags. If your not the queen, you can handle eating carrots after months in a cool spot, and if they are rubbery after a certain time, you can boil or fry them up to gather in their vitamins. You can preserve them as relishes in vinegar at any time if you don't like how they have come to taste in the fresh state, or cook them in broths/stews.

* Beets 4-5 months
* Broccoli 1-2 weeks
* Brussels Sprouts 3-5 weeks
* Cabbage (long keeper)
* Chinese Cabbage 1-2 months
* Carrots 4-6 months
* Cauliflower 2-4 weeks
* Celery (long keeper)
* Chives (not a root-cellar crop)
* Collards 1-2 weeks
* Cucumbers 2-3 weeks
* Eggplant 1-2 weeks
* Horse Radish (long keeper)
* Jerusalem Artichokes 1-2 months
* Kohlrabi (long keeper)
* Leeks N/A
* Onions (good keeper)
* Parsnips 1-2 months
* Pepper (good keeper)
* Sweet Potatoes (long keeper)
* Potatoes 4-6 months
* Pumpkin (good keeper)
* Radishes 2-3 months
* Rutabagas 2-4 months
* Salsify (good keeper)
* Soybeans (long keepers)
* Squash 4-6 months
* Tomatoes 1-2 months
* Turnips (long keepers)

The following lists give you an inkling as to how long certain vegetables can keep in the garden soil before the cold weather demands their removal indoors. You'll need a good book on gardening to tell you what their maximum outdoor stays should be. Generally, the less susceptible they are to frost, the longer you can keep the veggies in the ground past their maximums using a 12-18-inch covering of mulch. You might consider building a two-to-three foot wall all around the garden to keep the cold winds off the plants during this period that you are stretching their garden life. This will also keep all your mulch from blowing away, and the wall can even act as a solid foundation for a temporary greenhouse frame that you could quickly erect and drape with inexpensive plastic film, to keep the plants in their garden soils even longer.

Very Susceptible to Frost:

Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce, Squash, Sweet Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Pumpkins.

Moderately Susceptible to Frost:

Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage (young), Carrots, Cauliflower, Escarole, Garlic, Onions, Celery, Spinach, Parsley, Peas, Radishes.

Least Susceptible to Frost:

Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage (mature), Collards, Kale, Kohlrabi, Parsnips, Salsify, Turnips

John (the) Christian


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Oklahoma Preppers Network Est. Jan 17, 2009 All contributed articles owned and protected by their respective authors and protected by their copyright. Oklahoma Preppers Network is a trademark protected by American Preppers Network Inc. All rights reserved. No content or articles may be reproduced without explicit written permission.