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A pair of potato cellars in southeastern Idaho sit in a wheat field

A root cellar is a structure built underground or partially underground and used to store vegetables, fruits, and nuts or other foods.




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

Vegetables stored in the root cellar primarily consist of potatoes, turnip, and carrot. Other food supplies placed in the root cellar over the winter months include beets, onions preserves/jams, salt meat, salt turbot, and salt herring. Winter squash keeps well in a cellar, too.

Separate cellars are occasionally seen for storing fruits, such as apples. Water, bread, butter, milk, and cream are sometimes stored in the root cellar also. In addition, items such as salad greens, fresh meat, and jam pies are kept in the root cellar early in the day to keep cool until they are needed for supper.[1]


Common construction methods are:

  1. Digging down into the ground and erecting a shed or house over the cellar (access is via a trap door in the shed).
  2. Digging into the side of a hill (easier to excavate and facilitates water drainage).
  3. 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.[1]


  1. ^ a b An Old Time Dugout Root Cellar

See also



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