A GOOD THING ABOUT GROWING POTATOES is that they keep better than most vegetables. You can store potatoes for months because they continue live on after you pull them out of the ground. This is a good thing, too, because when backyard gardeners have a successful potato harvest, it’s usually enough for even large families to avoid the less tasty store bought varieties for at least a few months.
Another good thing is that storing potatoes properly is not hard – as long as the potatoes are healthy to begin with. If you keep a few guidelines in mind, you should be able to keep your harvest until the last potato is gone. Here are five guidelines on how to store potatoes.
Potato Storing Guidelines
1. Washing. Unwashed potatoes store better. If they are muddy or are excessively dirty, you can gently wash them with a hose. Just make sure they are completely dry before storing. Try to avoid scarring the skin because this invites problems.
2. No light. Probably the most important storage concern is light. Potatoes exposed to light turn green due to chlorophyll. A green potato indicates that glycoalkaloids have formed inside. In small amounts (no green) glycoalkaloids make potatoes taste bitter, giving them their distinctive taste. In larger amounts glycoalkaloids will make you sick. You can’t just cut off the green part of the potato to remove the glycoalkaloids. I’ve eaten potatoes with some green in the past, but I was lucky. It’s best to put green potatoes in the compost.3. Temperature. Experts disagree on the proper storage temperature, but agree that potatoes should never be frozen. A storage temperature between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit is probably best. After all, this is probably the temperature range they would be experiencing in the ground as they wait for spring. Temperatures on the low end of that range cause sugars to form in the potato. Most people don’t like a sweet potato. It tastes strange.
On top of that, potatoes that have been stored in the low 40s or colder sometimes burn when fried. Temperatures above 55 degrees sometimes encourage sprouting or, worse, diseases. A cold basement of about 45 -50 degrees is probably best.
4. Humidity. Potatoes should be stored in a moist environment. Humidity of 98 percent will avoid “potato shrivel.” This is because potatoes are mostly water and decrease in volume when dry. Storing potatoes in a rolled up paper bag will help keep the humidity high. It will also keep them dark.
5. Airflow. As we mentioned earlier, potatoes are still living, and like other living organisms they require oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. As such, air circulation is important when storing potatoes.
If you plan on storing potatoes for a few weeks, you don’t have to be too concerned. If, on the other hand, you’d like to keep them for a month or more, these guidelines will come in handy. For information on longer term storage of potatoes and seed potatoes, you can read the section on storing potatoes in Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener on Google Books. The storing potatoes section is available online for free.
How long do you store your potatoes? Have you had any problems? Let us know by commenting below.