History of the Root Cellar
Updated: Mar 3, 2020
A root cellar is a structure built underground or partially underground and used to store vegetables, fruits, and other foods. Root cellaring is the art or science of preserving any type of food supply. The origin of root cellars and root cellaring is probably lost in history. No doubt from the earliest of times the human race would have had to practice some form of root cellar preservation in order to subsist.
Certainly early settlers to North America brought their root cellaring expertise from England and particularly Ireland. The potato was first introduced to Ireland in the mid 1500’s and probably around 1588 in England. The potato became the main staple vegetable and was brought to North America by the earliest of settlers. Turnips and carrot were also introduced during the same time period. Root cellars were now required to preserve those vegetables over the winter months and into the summer months before the next harvest.
In the United States, the earliest recorded use of the term root cellar is found in an ad which advertises a farm house, near New York City in 1767. In Newfoundland, archeologists have found remnants of root cellars in Cupids dating back to the early 1600’s. The first reference in print to an Elliston root cellar was in 1846.