Natural Refrigerator: The Root Cellar in My Floor

When I built my house I noticed that one corner of the foundation was really deep, so I planned to make it into a root cellar. Now I use this space to keep the food I grow in the summer fresh through the winter, without refrigeration. It was a rather simple design feature, but it saves me a lot of energy in the long run and allows me to eat my harvest year round.

Our economy expends a huge amount of energy on refrigeration, not only to preserve food so that it can be shipped across the world and eaten fresh, but so that the food industry can recreate the climate conditions of a root cellar. The incredible diversity of flavors found in fermented foods, aged meats, wines, and cheeses were all developed around the world in the conditions found in local cellars. With the goal of preserving their harvest for more of the season, local artisans fermented, smoked, and salted foods before storing them in the cool natural conditions found several feet below the surface of the earth in a cellar. Without this need to preserve food in the absence of refrigeration, we would not have most of our expensive, highly-valued foods and flavors.  We are indebted to our fossil fuel deprived ancestors for these amazing flavors.

There are many flavors being produced by the industrial food system, but they come from chemicals, preservatives, and artificial flavors. With the convenience of refrigeration, chemical preservatives, and artificial flavors the fossil fuel economy gives us, who needs fine wines, cheeses, charcuterie, or pickles, eh? Wouldn’t you rather eat cheetos and velveeta?


  1. Hi Dan,

    The root cellar is a great idea. Did you have to put anything on the walls to prevent moisture from seeping in? Do you have any problems with mold or mildew? Bugs? I hope the community develops a larger root cellar because you all seem to grow a lot of food at DR.


      Hey Diane, I haven’t had to put anything on the wall to prevent moisture seeping in. That part of the foundation is above the ground but I have a gravel trench under the foundation that directs all the drainage away from the house so it’s unlikely water could get to the part under the root cellar. I have had some issues with pill bugs and house centipedes, but they don’t make it into the house. The pill bugs can be an issue for potatoes stored in there during the summer, but not in the winter. It’s really too cold in there for any bugs to live right now. I haven’t had any problems with mold or mildew surprisingly. Again, probably too cold when I’m storing stuff over winter. The root cellar doesn’t have any ventilation, which you would normally want have in a root cellar.

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