How Long Foods Last in a Root Cellar (Printable Storage Chart)


Vegetables and Fruits in Storage

How long does food last in a root cellar is a common question I get. I always tell people that storage times can vary greatly and depend on optimal conditions within the cellar. So, I wrote this article to help people with this difficult question.

How long does food last in a root cellar? The cool and fairly stable environment of a root cellar allows most foods to last longer than other storage methods. Even so, each type of food will have its own shelf-life guidelines that should be followed. A hygrometer, which measures humidity, can be used to help achieve optimal conditions.

While we all know that root vegetables can be stored in a root cellar, plenty of other vegetables, as well as many types of fruit, can also be stored in this way. This list will help you figure out the best ways to store the most common fruits and vegetables that are suitable for root cellar storage.

Root Cellar Storage Shelf Life

CropShelf Life
Apples4-6 mo
Artichokes2-4 mo
Beans, Green4-6 mo
Beets2-5 mo
Broccoli1-2 wks
Brussel Sprouts3-5 wks
Cabbage, Heads3-4 mo
Carrots4-6 mo
Celery5-8 wks
Citrus Fruits4-6 wks
Cucumbers1-3 wks
Eggplant1-2 wks
Grapes4-6 wks
Horseradish10-12 mo
Leafy Veggies10-14 days
CropShelf Life
Leeks 2-3 mo
Onions/Garlic 4-8 mo
Parsnips 4-6 mo
Pears2-3 mo
Peas 4-6 mo
Peppers, Bell 1-2 wks
Peppers, Dry 4-6 mo
Potatoes 4-6 mo
Pumpkins/Squash 5-6 mo
Rutabagas2-4 mo
Salsify2-4 mo
Sweet Potatoes4-6 mo
Tomatoes, Ripe5-10 days
Green Tomatoes1-2 mo
Turnips4-5 mo

Download the printable version of this root cellar storage chart

Note: Kohlrabi, endive, celeriac detailed below but not listed in chart.

Detailed Storage Guidelines

Note: To measure humidity, you will need a hygrometer, like this one found on AmazonOpens in a new tab..

Root Vegetables

These are the vegetables best suited for root cellars and which will keep the longest.

Beets

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90%-95%

Shelf life: 3-5 months

Storage: Store on bottom shelves in a covered bin, like this oneOpens in a new tab., layered with sand. Sort by size and use the smallest beets first. The larger the size, the longer they tend to keep.

Other considerations: Trim the greens, leaving 2 inches of stem attached; brush off loose soil; layer in damp sand, sawdust, or peat moss; don’t allow beets to touch each other.


Carrots

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90%-95%

Shelf life: 4 to 6 months, some varieties can last longer in ideal conditions.

Storage: Store on bottom shelves in a covered bin layered with sand or cut off tops and layer in damp sawdust or moss. Sort by size and use the smallest carrots first. The larger the size, the longer they tend to keep.

Other considerations: If you are running out of space in your root cellar, carrots can be stored where they are grown; mulch deeply with 1 to 2 feet of hay or straw and harvest as needed.


Parsnips

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90%-95%

Shelf life: 4 to 6 months

Storage: Store on bottom shelves in a covered bin with sand or layer in damp sawdust or moss. Sort by size and use the smallest parsnips first. The larger the size, the longer they tend to keep.

Other considerations: Like carrots, parsnips can be mulched outdoors but only if temperatures don’t freeze and thaw repeatedly; they will last longer in a root cellar.


Potatoes

Temperature: Cold, 38°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Moist, 80%-90%

Shelf life: 4 to 6 months

Storage: Store in complete darkness in sand, sawdust, or moss. A bin or a mesh or paper bag will work.

Other considerations: Cure potatoes in a dark place at 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 – 14 days after harvest; they need 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit for long-term storage so monitor closely and avoid storing in proximity to ethylene-releasing crops.


Rutabagas

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90%-95%

Shelf life: 5 to 6 months

Storage: Layer in a box with moist sand and keep moist; store on bottom shelves of root cellar.

Other considerations: Will produce odors so consider outdoor or separate storage rather than storing in the cellar with other vegetables.


Turnips

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90%-95%

Shelf life: 4 to 5 months

Storage: Layer in moist sand and check regularly to ensure it remains moist.

Other considerations: Like rutabagas, turnips can produce odors, so consider separate storage.


Sweet Potatoes

Temperature: Warm, do not allow the temperature to drop below 55°F. (55°F to 60°F) (12.8°C to 15.6°C)

Humidity: Dry, 60%-70%

Shelf life: 2 to 3 months

Storage: Store in warm, dry area on top shelves of the cellar for long-term storage; use ventilated boxes and wrap individually in paper.

Other considerations: Brush off soil and cure at 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity for 5-10 days after harvesting; store in cool, dry area (55-60 degrees Fahrenheit) for long-term storage,

Other Vegetables

You can preserve a whole range of vegetables and fruits in root cellars and some even rival the storage times of typical root vegetables.

Artichokes

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90%-95%

Shelf life: 1 – 2 mo

Storage: Layer in a binOpens in a new tab. in damp sand and store on lower shelves of the cellar.

Other considerations: As with carrots, artichokes can be stored where they grow; mulch deeply with 1 to 2 feet of hay or straw and harvest as needed. Artichokes last 1 to 2 months in a cellar but will last until spring when allowed to remain unharvested and mulched unless the ground freezes. Exposure to freezing temperatures will affect the flavor, texture, and even the color of artichokes. Diseased, bruised, or skinned fruit will spoil easier.


Beans, Green

Temperature: Cool, 40°F to 50°F (0.5°C to 10°C)

Humidity: Moist, 80% – 90%

Shelf life: 4-6 mo

Storage: Store 3-4 feet off the floor.

Other considerations: Green Beans are best when salted and stored in ceramic containers.


Broccoli

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90% – 95%

Shelf life: 1 to 2 weeks

Storage: Store on bottom shelves in a perforated plastic bag.

Other considerations: Avoid storing in proximity to fruits and vegetables that emit ethylene gas which will significantly shorten its shelf life; broccoli isn’t a long keeper, but stores best around 33 degrees Fahrenheit with very high moisture; regulate carefully and don’t allow to freeze.


Brussel Sprouts

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90% – 95%

Shelf life: 3 to 5 weeks

Storage: Store on bottom shelves in a perforated plastic bag.

Other considerations: Dig up plants and repot and store potted plants in the root cellar, or hang plants from the ceiling by its roots and continue to harvest as needed; otherwise, harvest and wrap sprouts in perforated plastic for best storage.


Cabbage, Heads

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Very moist, 90% – 95%

Shelf life: 4 to 6 months, depending on the cabbage variety. Red cabbage keeps longer than green; later crops will last longer than the early crops.

Storage: Leave at least 3 inches of space between the individually wrapped heads if storing on the lower shelves in the cellar; repot and set on cellar floor; or, hang by the roots.

Other considerations: Consider using separate storage for cabbage to avoid odors.


Leeks

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Moist, 80% – 90%

Shelf life: 2 to 3 months

Storage: Store on bottom shelves.

Other considerations: Harvest only after the first frost; can be left in the garden and covered with 1 to 2 feet of mulch; or, can be dug up and repotted; and can be stored upright in a bucket of damp soil or sand and harvested as needed.


Onions and garlic

Temperature: Cool, 40°F to 50°F (4.5°C to 10°C)

Humidity: Dry, 60% to 70%

Shelf life: 4 to 6 months

Storage: Store on top shelves of cellar.

Other considerations: Cure in a dry, well-ventilated environment for 10 to 14 days until skins are papery and roots are dry; cut off tops and store in ventilated containers such as mesh nets because dry and ventilated conditions are essential.


Pumpkins and squash

Temperature: Cool, 40°F to 50°F (4.5°C to 10°C)

Humidity: Dry, 60% to 70%

Shelf life: 5 to 6 months

Storage: Store on top shelves or any cool, dark storage area.

Other considerations: Harvest before frost, keep 1 to 2 inches of stem intact and cure pumpkins at 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 days before storing in the root cellar. Acorn squash does not need to be cured. Wash winter squash and pumpkins in a 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water solution and rinse well to remove any fungi or bacteria before storage.


Tomatoes

Temperature: Cool, 40°F to 50°F (4.5°C to 10°C)

Humidity: Dry, 60% to 70%

Shelf life: 5-10 days ripe, 1-2 mo green, depending on the variety

Storage: Store on top shelves.

Other considerations: Some varieties are intended for winter storage and will keep much better than others. Tomatoes can be picked while still green and allowed to ripen in storage to prolong storage time, hang upside down from vine or wrap individually in newspaper. Keep temperatures no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit

Fruits

Apples

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Moist, 80% to 90%

Shelf life: 4 to 6 months

Storage: Store on bottom shelves of a root cellar.

Other considerations: Varieties vary dramatically as far as storage times; newer varieties last longer than antique or heirloom varieties. Wrap apples individually in newspaper and store in boxes or wooden crates. Store only mature, unblemished fruit. Do not store apples with vegetables as the ethylene gas they emit will cause vegetables to sprout and rot.


Pears

Temperature: Cold, 33°F to 40°F (0.5°C to 4.5°C)

Humidity: Moist, 80% to 90%

Shelf life: 2-3 months

Storage: Store on bottom shelves of the root cellar.

Other considerations: Pears are very sensitive to temperature and are ideal at the lowest temperatures. Wrap them individually in newspaper or sealed bags and store them in wooden boxes lined with perforated plastic. They are best if used within 60 days. Pears should be stored away from vegetables because of the ethylene gas they emit.

Approximately 3 days before using pears, move them into a cool room to ripen. Since pears ripen from the inside out, test them for ripeness by squeezing gently at the top of the neck which yields slightly to gentle pressure when ripe. If the large part of the pear is soft, it is overripe and can be mushy.

How to Extend Shelf Life

The length of time that food lasts can vary greatly and depends on optimal conditions within the cellar. Remember that although your root cellar will keep a significantly more stable temperature than the above-ground environment, conditions within the root cellar can also vary. For example, the top of a root cellar will be warmer and less humid than the bottom, so make sure you fill your shelves accordingly.

There are a few ways to maximize the shelf life of the foods you store in a root cellar. Here are a few:

  1. Plant or buy the varieties of each product that store better than others.
  2. Certain crops like artichokes, carrots, and onions last longer left unharvested and mulched than they do when harvested and stored in a cellar.
  3. Pick fruits and vegetables at their peak of ripeness and don’t let them become overripe before storing.
  4. Handle foods carefully to avoid bruising and other damage.
  5. Prepare foods for storage in a manner that will allow them to stay good longer, whether it is wrapping individually, layering in a storage medium, or placing then in an airtightOpens in a new tab. or perforated container.
  6. Place foods at the right level within the cellar to maintain the desired temperature and moisture.
  7. Monitor conditions within the cellar often enough to make adjustments to temperature and moisture levels as needed.
  8. Contact your County AgentOpens in a new tab. for help with tailoring your root cellar and the crops you raise to the area in which you live to maximize your storage success.

How to Adjust Temperature and Humidity in Root Cellar

Temperature

  1. While root cellars tend to hold their temperatures fairly well due to their depth, in cold climates, a 40-60 watt incandescent light bulbOpens in a new tab. can be used to maintain the required temperature in a root cellar to prevent temperatures from falling too low. If using a light bulb, be sure to cover it with something such as a metal bucket that will conceal the light. Most produce keeps better in the dark.
  2. In warm climates, an electric fan can be used to cool down large batches of the produce being added to the root cellar at one time, because it is necessary to quickly cool down some vegetables such as mustard greens, turnip greens, mustard, and kale to keep them from wilting.

Humidity

  1. HygrometerOpens in a new tab.: An instrument that monitors the moisture in the atmosphere of an area can be used to more accurately determine when adjustments to the humidity in a root cellar are needed.
  2. Water: To raise the humidity to the very high level, you may need to sprinkle water on the floor of the cellar.
  3. Ventilation: In the summer, ventilationOpens in a new tab. can be used to raise the humidity in the root cellar, but don’t open the vents enough that the temperature rises too high.
  4. Hydrated Lime: Gathers moisture from the atmosphere and can be sprinkled on the root cellar floor to reduce humidity when a dryer atmosphere is required.

Note: Be sure the humidity stays under 95% or moisture may form on the cellar surfaces.

Root Cellar Maintenence Products

I took the time to some things you might need for a root cellar. Here are a few Amazon products that you may find helpful:

Related Questions

Can you store meat in a root cellar? Meat should not be stored in a root cellar since the optimal temperature is above freezing. Meat will quickly rot if not kept in sub-freezing temperatures.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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