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Old 06/09/09, 11:27 AM
JBourne76's Avatar
Bathtub Ninja
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: N. FL
Posts: 148
Potato house, root cellar, what?

I've been trying off and on for a while now to find info on what people in my neck of the woods, North Florida, did back in the day about food storage, specifically about root vegetable storage.

I don't think that a root cellar would be a viable option in this area due to the fact that, near the coast, when you dig, water fills the hole, and the hole ain't gotta be all that deep.

I also wonder about the heat and humidity, which are oppressive, and if there's any way to minimize their effect on food storage.

Over the weekend, I was at a museum which has a neat little farm/homestead laid out. I ran across a building that they'd labeled a Potato House. The building was narrow; the walls weren't solid, they were kind of like the walls of a log cabin but with the cracks between logs not filled in, presumably for air flow purposes. The floor had been dug out a little bit (not enough to fill with water) and was still dirt, not covered by any flooring. The door was at one end.

In this potato house there were several jars of home canned food, I guess to demonstrate what the potato house could be used for. No potatoes, though.

I googled potato house to see what I could find out. What I found out is that there are a number of restaurants called The Potato House. Not real helpful for my purposes.

Do any of you have any information that might point me in a direction so I can learn more about this subject?

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Old 06/09/09, 12:07 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Northeastern Oklahoma
Posts: 5,039
I never heard of them either, but just Googled "potato house food storage" and saw a couple of links on page one and a couple on page two.

Apparently, they're also called "pit houses", and I Googled "food storage pit house" and saw a few links there.

Sorry I can't help more. Maybe someone else will have more info. It is interesting though and might be an idea for around here in the summertime (very hot and extremely humid), although a typical root cellar works well in the winter. Thanks for asking this, I'll be watching the replies.
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Old 06/09/09, 12:12 PM
In Remembrance
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
Posts: 11,076
Above ground root cellar.

There shouldn't be a reason why you can't build an above ground root cellar to alleviate drainage issues providing you can get enough soil to mound over it. Material to use would be another issue.

Here is a link to a photo of the farm I grew up on. At the right you can see the old ice house which is really not more than a cellar above ground with soil mounded over it.

In this image with wider view the various buildings are tagged and moving your mouse over them will provide identity.

Another thought, but with a fair amount of cost, would be to partially bury a large poly or fiberglass water or chemical tank and cut a doorway into the above ground portion. It would have to be weighted well in order to keep it from floating out of the ground by the hydraulic pressure of water.
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Old 06/09/09, 12:20 PM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Southern Maryland
Posts: 93
no reason you can't build a hill to have the root cellar in. wasn't uncommon practice to mound dirt up over a log building to make a cellar.
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Old 06/09/09, 12:37 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Bartow County, GA
Posts: 7,691
You can build an well insulated block building and use it as a "root cellar". Be creative. No reason it has to be underground.
Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible
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Old 06/09/09, 12:49 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: north Alabama
Posts: 11,256
Potato houses used to be somewhat common in New England. IIRC, sawdust was used to keep the rotting ones from infecting the good ones. However... in the old days, a lot of potatoes were washed and boiled and turned into dried potato starch, which was then shipped. Obviously, this eliminated the rot problem and allowed for longer term storage. Stowe Vermont used to have a fairly big potato starch business.

Root cellar storage works for some foods, but a lot of foods were better off being dried. Green beans and other foods were dehydrated, garlic and onions stored dry and heat wasn't a big issue. As far as other root vegetables, a lot can just be left in the ground. Carrots and turnips and mangles don't suffer form storage like this.
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Old 06/09/09, 01:48 PM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 295

I'm curious, were you visiting Dudley Farm in Newberry? If not, where?


Live and learn. Die and forget it all.
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Old 06/09/09, 03:48 PM
JBourne76's Avatar
Bathtub Ninja
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: N. FL
Posts: 148
Originally Posted by dheat View Post

I'm curious, were you visiting Dudley Farm in Newberry? If not, where?


We were at the Tallahassee Museum, formerly known as the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science, formerly known (and still known by me!) as the Jr. Museum.

I've not heard of Dudley Farm. Off to use my Google-fu!

Thanks to all of you for your responses!
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Old 06/09/09, 06:25 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 5,665
As someone has already said, you can leave some vegetables in the ground as long as they won't freeze, although you might get some mouse damage this way. We left a bunch of carrots in the ground (with mulch over them) one time in New Hampshire, and mid-winter were still digging carrots. However, when they froze, the frozen part turned squishy, but there was often still some good carrot underneath the squishy part.

Google potato clamps. That might help you. However, I don't know if your winter temps are going to be cool enough to keep things like potatoes for very long. Might be long enough to keep you through until the garden starts to produce, though.

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