Even in ancient times, food was stored in underground cellars to make it last longer.
With the invention of the conventional refrigerator, earth cellars became obsolete and today most people hardly know this form of storage.
With the increasing need for self-sufficiency and the preparation for all emergency scenarios, the focus is again on the earth cellar.
Because an earth cellar works without electricity and is therefore an independent and sustainable way of storing and preserving food.
Find out now how an earth cellar works and how you can build one yourself.
But what exactly is an earth cellar?
A basement is an underground structure used to store vegetables, fruit, or other food. It is generally built at a depth where the temperature and humidity are fairly stable, ideally between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius and 85% to 95% humidity.
An earth cellar is therefore built below ground level. It thus uses the temperature and humidity below ground, which are much more constant than above ground.
To create these conditions, the basement must have a certain depth. A depth of at least 80 centimeters is required for this.
Sounds interesting to you?
Then let’s go into more detail and see how these basements are built.
How are earth cellars built?
For this form of storage, you first need one chamber under the ground. If you live on a slope, you can also build the basement there. This ensures level access.
Pay attention here to the North entrance oriented to minimize exposure to sunlight (if you live in the northern hemisphere).
In general, you should shady place find for construction.
You can also build the basement in the form of a hole in the lowlands. The width is variable and ranges from the size of a garbage can to several meters in diameter.
The basement should at least 80 centimeters deep be, but ideal conditions are only created from 120 centimeters. From a depth of three meters you have then refrigerator-like conditions and thus optimal conditions for long-term storage.
It is important to Groundwater level to respect. You should definitely measure or find out this before digging. Once this is done, you can continue.
the surrounding Earth insulates the basement and conducts heat very slowly. If necessary, the walls can also be lined with wood.
In addition, the interior is protected from frost. Your food can thus be protected all year round.
However, building an earth cellar presents some difficulties in some parts of the world. This type of storage is best suited for countries with clear seasons. High water levels or extremely hot months could strain the storage function.
Traditionally, the Earth cellar for root vegetables used. If the areas are ideally separated, fruit, meat or drinks can also be stored.
Finally, the basement must be equipped with a locking mechanism or a door.
Thus, the conditions remain constant and, in addition, a door keeps animals away from your valuable supply.
Advantages of an earth cellar
Do you grow your own vegetables in large quantities (e.g. in your self-catering garden), it needs space for storage.
An earth cellar can be used to reliably store root vegetables in particular over a long period of time. Even if you get the vegetables from external sources, you can accommodate large quantities of high-quality, seasonal vegetables.
This means you are independent of conventional food distributors such as supermarkets.
In addition, you do not pay high electricity costs and cool your food in a sustainable way.
How underground cellars work
1. No frost
Earth cellars are not exposed to frost. This is an advantage, as fruit and vegetables in particular with a lot of water become soft and eventually go bad after freezing.
2. High humidity
This is essential since vegetables and fruit in particular lose water when stored dry and thus change their shape. This reduces durability.
In order to ensure ideal humidity, foods with a high moisture requirement are stored below. You can also place root vegetables like potatoes or parsnips in damp sand to promote water retention.
3. Own ventilation system
The ventilation in an earth cellar ensures temperature regulation on the one hand, but the air circulation also prevents the development of mould and mildew.
That’s why it’s important to use containers and shelves in your basement. If your supplies are simply stacked on top of each other, optimal ventilation cannot take place.
In any case, you should check the contents regularly to stop potential mould growth.
4. Reduction of ethylene
Ethylene is a gas that is emitted by fruit and vegetables, among other things, and leads to ripening. Some fruits emit more ethylene than others, which has the effect that surrounding fruits also ripen faster.
This is the reason why bananas and apples are unsuitable for an earth cellar. However, the underground cellar also means that less ethylene is emitted.
Bananas, apples, pears, blueberries, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, plums and tomatoes give off particularly large amounts of ethylene.
Particularly sensitive to ethylene are: apples, pears, leafy vegetables, blueberries, cauliflower, beans, broccoli, potatoes, leeks, nectarines or tomatoes
The mini underground cellar for the spontaneous storage of food
If you are only in one place for a short time, it is not worth digging out a huge earth cellar.
But here it is possible to sink a barrel or bucket into the ground and store your food in it.
Root vegetables in particular can be stored here over a long period of time.
If you don’t have a bucket or similar handy, it’s also possible to build a basement without a lot of equipment. To do this, a layer of clay or clay must be laid at the very bottom. This counteracts the formation of condensation.
Then you stack the vegetables from heavy to light. You can use brushwood and leaves as a lid.
Vegetables that can be stored well together
Many vegetables have similar temperature and moisture requirements.
The following can be stored together in the same bucket/cellar at 0 to 4 degrees C and 90 to 95% humidity:
Do not store damaged vegetables!
Just brush away most of the dirt. Do not rinse or wash the vegetables. Use damaged fruit and vegetables immediately. Bacteria and fungi quickly attach themselves to bruised or cut products.
Store onions in a cool, dry, earthen cellar with temperatures between 0 and 1 °C and 60 to 70% humidity. You can store peas with onions.
Regular potatoes and sweet potatoes must be stored separately. Normal potatoes should be at 3 to 4 °C and 80 to 90% humidity. Sweet potatoes should be at 10 to 13 °C with 80 to 90% humidity.
Dried beans must be stored at temperatures between 0 and 10 °C are kept cool and dry at 60 to 70% humidity.
Pumpkins and zucchini can be stored together in a warm, dry, earthen cellar. Temperatures should be between 10 and 13 °C are kept at a humidity of 60 to 75%.
Store apples and pears in a cold, damp, earthen cellar at temperatures of 0 to 4 °C at 80 to 90% humidity.
If you notice your fruit or veg starting to shrivel, the humidity is too low.
Try spraying the straw layers with some water to increase the moisture content. If the fruit or veg shows a little condensation or moisture, consider reducing the humidity in the basement.
Replace the straw with fresh, dry straw and make sure there is no water under the bucket or in the basement.
Conclusion: Soil cellars are a fantastic option for storing food
Depending on where you live, a basement can be a great option for long-term food storage.
Self-sufficient storage is particularly worthwhile when growing your own. If you want to prepare for any survival situation, the earth cellar is essential.
Especially with a Power failure you remain independent and are only dependent on a low groundwater level.
Even in nature, with little equipment, it is possible to build your own small earth fridge.
The composition and separation of the food are important. Fruits high in ethylene should be stored separately so they don’t affect your other vegetables.
Have fun building and trying it out!