How Cold Rooms Vary from Root Cellars

When most of us think about cold storage, we think of the real-deal, partially underground, old fashioned root cellar with a dirt floor, potatoes piled in the corners, kraut fermenting in large crocks and vegetables layered with dirt in boxes and bins. It’s a cold, dark, humid place with ventilation and a wonderful earthy odor!

When it comes to cold rooms (whether basement, porch or outdoor shed) it seems we ought to be able to emulate that same style and technique of storage. If you are intrigued with methods of old fashioned living and food preservation, root cellars are rustically romantic and we’d be thrilled to use the same techniques in our basement!

But I have bad news: cold room and root cellar storage require two different methods of food preservation, particularly if your cold room is located in the basement of your home! Root cellars should be cold and humid. They are highly suitable for produce that needs moisture. Basement cold rooms must be kept to dry and are suitable for produce that needs a dry environment.

If using a corner in your basement, you can’t use the dirt-pack method for moisture-loving vegetables! Unless you have a 100% concrete room, humidity in the soil (you’ve gotta have it) will cause mold issues in your basement and no one wants that!

But never fear! There are some real bonuses to a dry storage room and a way around this humidity issue.

Positives to Cold Room Storage

(even if you can’t use the dirt pack method for preservation)

Bonus #1: while you can’t store squash, onions and garlic in your root cellar, they preserve wonderfully in a dry-environment cold room

onions for dry storage

Bonus #2: storing jars of canned goods in your cold room will help preserve the nutritional contents of the food, plus you won’t have to travel far to get ’em!


Bonus #3: fermented foods placed in a cold room will be preserved until warm spring weather returns.

Bonus #4: if you use the proper methods, a cold room can hold more diversity than a root cellar. But you’ve gotta know how to do it! It does require more work, but I think it pays off as you are more likely to check the stored goods on a regular basis and catch spoilage sooner!


Bonus #5: you get to walk through a very full room, admire the goods and feel like a homesteader of long ago…which we all know means sharing what we have with those around us!