Friday, October 31, 2008

For Preparedness, The Economy, Or Just the Fun of It: Have Yourself a Wannabee-Mini-Root-Cellar

Oh I love fall! I love the colors in the trees and bushes. I love the soft winds that bring the smell of fall. I love to scuffle in the street gutters and lawns full of drying leaves. I used to love the smell of bon-fires in Ohio, where I grew up. I love to watch the leaves raining down. (In my humble opinion, raking leaves is a small price to pay for the beauty and blessings of trees. Especially if one can get enough leaves to create a pile big enough to really shuffle through – or if you are young enough and small enough – burrow through.) I love it when the big thunderheads and cumulus clouds race across the sky, creating all kinds of images in grays and deep blues for the mind. And then there is the smell of rain …

Oh yes, this is supposed to be a blog about something meaningful. Or at least that’s the rumor I started.

I’m still going to talk about fall, only with the emphasis on squash and all kinds of neat and wonderful things that can be stored “root-cellar style.” There aren’t many of us in today’s world that have the opportunity to have a real root cellar. You know, the kind that grandparents used to not only talk about, but also had. The wonderful cellar or space under ground with a dirt floor, (spiders,) and walls that would stay cool and sometimes downright cold, all winter long. But all kinds of good to eat treasures could be stored there; such as squash, carrots, potatoes, apples, onions and on and on.

Well today I am going to challenge you to find a wannabee-root-cellar in your home. It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment or mobile home or in the middle of a large city. I didn’t say, “find a place to dig a pit,” did I? Okay, then keep reading.

Wait, maybe you should get that proverbial notebook and pencil first, so that as the ideas come flowing in you can make some notes.

Assess you home for cool, dry space – or several spaces. You have to do this BEFORE I send you on the scavenger hunt for things to fill this space, or you will go crazy impulse buying and not have anyplace but in the middle of your living room floor to create your mini-root-cellar. Now there would be a conversation piece! You could always say, “But Barbara said.”

For both preparedness and economy this is a delightful idea that many don’t even know about, let alone do anything about. “Tis the season” for winter squash, apples, carrots, beets, apples and more. Do your homework and become price conscious.

Some items may only keep a few weeks. Some may keep several months. If they only keep a few weeks, you and your budget will still be ahead. However, you must get the picture, this definitely is NOT a “store and forget” storage situation.

Look for a very cool place; as cool as you have available to work with at this time. Do not choose an area where your produce will freeze or you will lose it all.
* If you have a basement count your blessings. If you do not have an actual storage room find a corner you can use.
* Look for a closet where you can stack boxes or tubs in one end.
* If you have a carport storage shed check it out. If it is insulated you can have fifteen bonus points.
* If you have a garage or the carport that is not insulated, consider using your picnic ice chests from summer. You know, the kind that is insulated with an insulated lid. Only for this project you will totally omit using any ice, just the chest as great container for your wannabee-mini-root-cellar.
* f you have a deck that has a tool closet, rearrange the tools and create room for your wannabee-mini-root-cellar. The same rules apply to protect your product from freezing.
* What about space under your stairs? Is it dark and full of clutter or stuff? Rearrange it for your wannabee-mini-root-cellar.

In the grocery stores look for local produce that may be called a field run or just a local crop. Usually these squash or whatever will be allowed to ripen longer on the vine or plant than those that have to be processed and shipped. Generally the price is better also.

Check out the farm stands that just a few weeks ago were selling local fruit. They may now have the onions, potatoes and squash. Remember the blog that convinced you that pumpkin is a squash and good to eat? There still may be a few pumpkins available.

Check out the farmer’s markets. But be very careful and be very price conscious. The impulse-buy-bug is huge in a trendy farmer’s market atmosphere. The focus is not usually “farmer’s prices” but the atmosphere. Have you ever seen the huge farmer’s market in LA? That’s what I’m talking about. Of course you can always plan to buy and then that’s not impulse. What? Did you read that in my article? Seriously, set aside a specific dollar amount, stick to it for the “I have to haves,” or “I have to try.”

Here’s your beginning list to start your scavenger hunt for things to put in your mini-root-cellar: onions, potatoes, yams, and squash – all 9000 varieties of winter squash. (Well there are a lot and I haven’t counted them all lately. And there are different ones in different regions of the country.) Remember, you buy the great big squash only if you have someone to share it with once it’s time to cut it.

Then there are apples. Apples store extremely well. The colder you can keep them without freezing the better.

Carrots and beets store very well if you get the kind that have not been totally trimmed or scraped. Beets should still have their roots and not have the tops cut down into the flesh of the beet. Carrots should not be shaved or scraped. In other words you won’t buy the cello-pack to put in you mini-root-cellar.

All products should be firm without bruises or soft spots. There is a difference between a leaf or stone scar and a bruise. A scar is part of the skin or markings on the skin.

Just think of how much fun it could be, let alone how good it would taste, at Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner to have fresh, economical squash or yams or potatoes – or all of the above- from your mini-root-cellar.

You may think I’m strange, but it will only take the savings you’ve planned on, and one or two meals from that dark closet to convince you that it’s worth the effort.

And Cha-Ching Barbara has brainwashed somebody else J

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