Storing Potatoes

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My grandparents had a root cellar dug into a side hill on their farm. It was used for storing potatoes and other garden crops. 

Storing potatoes

Since potatoes do not always freeze, dry or can well, storing them whole is often the best plan.

Before you store the potatoes, look them over and use any bruised, cut or damaged potatoes first. 

Few of us have root cellars so what we need to find is a place that provides the conditions needed for storing potatoes long term.

Those storage conditions include:

  • Cool: with temperatures of 45 to 50°F.
  • Dark: light causes potatoes to turn green and become inedible
  • Dry: dampness causes spoilage and rot

Though potatoes are best stored at a cool temperature, they should not be refrigerated. In cold temperatures potato starch converts to sugar and gives potatoes an uncharacteristic sweet taste. This sugar will caramelize during cooking and produce brown potatoes with an off flavor. 

On the other hand, if potatoes are stored at temperatures that are too high, they will soften and sprout. Potatoes can safely be stored for a week or two at room temperature (65 to 70 degrees) with good results.

After harvesting your potatoes, place them in the sun for two or three hours to dry. Brush off excess soil however do not wash them until you are ready to use since dampness can cause decay.

Tips For Storing Potatoes:

  • Layer potatoes between sheets of newspaper so if one spoils it will not affect all of the others.
  • For best results, store potatoes where there is good air circulation.
  • Even under the best conditions, stored potatoes lose some quality the longer they are stored.
  • Potatoes that have started to sprout can be eaten if they are still firm. Remove and discard the sprouts. Shriveled, wrinkled, sprouting potatoes should not be eaten.
  • Potatoes that have developed green skin should not be eaten. This occurs when potatoes have been exposed to too much light. A mildly toxic alkaloid called solanin forms in the skin.

Note: Conditions at harvest, vigor of the plant during the growing season and how fast the potato crop was cooled down in the fall can greatly affect how long a potato will store without sprouting problems.

A Synopsis of Thoughts About Storing Potatoes

  • A potato is a living organism. If you warm it up it will grow; if you seal it plastic it will suffocate.
  • If stored potatoes are diseased they will spoil.
  • If the potatoes you are storing are kept too cold they will freeze.
  • If you are storing potatoes where there is too much light they will become green and toxic.

Keep small amounts of potatoes in burlap bags, brown paper bags, or perforated plastic bags. Check them from time to time and remove any that have sprouted, softened, or shriveled. What they say about a bad apple is also true of a bad potato: one bad one can spoil the rest! 

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