Once upon a time, everybody in New England had one. It’s how you got through – ate through – the winter lacking refrigeration, electricity and supermarkets. Today, root cellars are enjoying a small revival, as people in cold-weather places like Maine try to eat locally year round. Cheryl Wixson, of Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen in Stonington, talks about root cellars every year at the Common Ground Fair. One week ago today, Sunday, quite early, in the pouring rain, her annual talk was standing room only.

Before you build a root cellar in your home to overwinter (Maine) apples, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, turnips… at carefully controlled temperatures and humidity levels, you need to commit to a root cellar lifestyle, Wixson said. Like this: ” ‘I am going to buy fruits or vegetables in advance.’ You’re going to put them to sleep, quote unquote, which is what a root cellar does, it slows down the respiration, and then you are going to go ‘shopping’ on a regular basis in your own root cellar.

“Now for my own root cellar, I have to open up a trap door in my kitchen floor and climb down on a ladder, and it’s not even 5 feet high down there. But I’m a pretty committed. (The American) lifestyle is so ‘I have to go to the supermarket. I need something. Every five minutes we dash off. If you have a root cellar, you are saying, ‘I want to get off that corporate food train, and I want to get on the local food train.'”