I read in an early 1900s book that they use to pack apples with straw and put them in the root cellar.
As my fruit trees start producing more fruit I have been wondering what everyone does for long term storage. You can only dry and can so much before you need some type of storage solution.
Some of the bigger operations probably have a huge walk in cooler of some sort. But what about the home orchards?
There should be some threads on this if you search, but my short answer is that I put about three pounds of apples in a poly bread bag, non-perforated, tie it snugly with a twist tie and keep them as close to 32 F as possible. It helps to start with apples that are known for keeping well, and I suspect that many of the apples that were kept in straw in the root cellar or in barrels needed that time to mellow. I’m thinking of something like Arkansas Black and Prairie Spy, for example. But also Winesaps; probably many of the so-called antique or heritage fruits were selected for their ability to winter over. Industrial outfits use nitrogen in a controlled atmosphere cooler. Probably not very doable for the home orchard (and something that can be risky).
Other fruits I know less about. You can freeze some things for later canning/preserves. Some people juice their fruit and freeze the juice. Make lots ofhard cider, and quit caring anymore …
Department store bags work well too… A few drops of water to keep humidity high. I just tie 'em tight via the “handles”. We’ll still be eating them from a spare fridge a month+ from now.
An unheated and unfinished basement should work well. Also a root cellar dug under a house or barn. (Which keeps it dry).
All right! You asked for it!
I didn’t have a plan, either, but I had this fenced off part of the basement. No clue what the previous owners did with it. If it had been a coal bin, the studs would have been toward the camera.
… so I stuck an exterior door in the doorway.
Now, my basement is not insulated, which is a good thing because it allows the ground moisture in, and you NEED THE HUMIDITY. I keep a tub of moist sand on the floor to stratify avocado seeds and because I NEED THE HUMIDITY.
Did I mention that there were exposed studs on the inside of this little room? I put fiberglass insulation between the studs and a plastic vapor barrier over it and covered it with green board. Now this room is fairly weather tight except for the outside walls, so I can allow the temperature to go down to freezing and still keep the humidity fairly high. That was about as much of a plan as I had. About ventilation…
I blocked up the window with an electric vent. It has a tiny 120V motor that holds it open against a spring.
On the outside of the window opening is a 120V thermostat like this. Because I wanted the vent OPEN below 50°F, I chose a thermostat that I could adjust to MAKE contact below the adjusted temp. But that’s not all.
Low on the inside wall is a second thermostat that BREAKS below the adjusted temp of 32°F so that the vent closes when the room gets too cold.
The setup is dead simple and uses natural cooling and humidification to the extent possible. I’ve had to keep the door cracked open on really cold, windy nights so things don’t freeze solid, and it takes a long time for the indoor temp to get below 50°F in the fall so the early harvest is not so well protected, but then the early apples don’t keep very well anyway, do they?