The Complete Root Cellar Book
By Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie
(Robert Rose Publishing) $27.95
My grandparents’ home had a spooky cavern-like room off an unfinished basement that was known as the root cellar. My sister and I played deliciously scary games featuring the Root Monster on rainy afternoons. We didn’t understand that this cellar had once been the only way city dwellers could eat potatoes, apples, beets and carrots out of season.
However, building my own storage space had not entered my mind until I read The Complete Root Cellar Book. With global climate change an accepted fact, we are acutely aware of the damage unleashed by our demand for spring artichokes in January. Add to that the repeated supermarket jaunts for that missing carrot. Did you know it takes 6,000 percent more energy to make that car trip than to get the carrot there in the first place?
The case for having a root cellar is established in a brief introduction. There follows a series of well-illustrated options: if you already live in a house with a cold room, you can convert it to a full root cellar. If you are without a basement — even as a condo dweller and ham-fisted to boot — plans are included.
I tested four of the 100-plus recipes included to use the fruits of your labour. Classic Apple Crisp passed our family taste test. Vegetable Stock offered an improvement on my standard recipe with the addition of leeks. I was emboldened to try Beet and Sweet Potato Fries. Now, I eagerly await my own garden’s crop to try the intriguing Sweet Lemon Parsnip Loaf. Even if you can’t imagine needing a root cellar yourself, pick up a copy of this food-fact-packed volume anyway. It’s worth it for the history and the recipes alone.
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