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How to store autumn's bounty of vegetables and fruits

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Courtesy of Doreen Howard

(Read caption) Winter squash and pumpkins are easy to store and remain at their prime for six months or more.

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Two weeks ago, I visited several farmers’ markets in the area, as it was their last day of the season. I ended up buying black, red and yellow carrots, ones I’ve never grown.

It isn’t like I needed carrots. I grew and stored plenty in my garden, including Purple Dragon, which has a hint of juniper and rosemary flavor besides its beautiful purple flesh with an orange core.

I bought those additional carrots, along with winter squash, because I have places in which to store vegetables and fruit for months. And, I built a quick root cellar next to my garage.

Old-fashioned root cellars where gardeners stored vegetables over the winter 75 years ago have disappeared from modern homes. Instead of dirt-floor cellars, basements today have concrete floors and are partially heated by furnaces operating there.

The cellar I made was simple. Husband and I created it in less than 30 minutes, not counting the time to buy a new plastic trash can at the local big-box store.

How to build the root cellar

Before the ground freezes, dig a large, deep hole in a sheltered spot, preferably close to the house. We put ours just outside the back door to the garage.

Sink a 32-gallon heavy-duty plastic trash can into the hole, positioning it so the rim is about three inches above the soil line. That way melting snow and rain will not leak inside.

Line the bottom of the can with a two-inch layer of damp sand, add a layer of vegetables, top with an inch of damp sand and another layer of carrots, potatoes or whatever you are storing. Repeat the layers, ending up with sand on top.

Place lid on the can and top with a two-foot-high mound of straw or shredded autumn leaves. A sheet of plastic film over the mound top will keep everything in place and dry. Anchor theplastic with rocks or bricks.

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