Storing food can be a real challenge for most homeowners. Whether you are a busy mom who prefers to buy stocks in bulk for the family or a gardener who has had more than enough harvest, you’d surely need to learn how to store properly. We never want to have spoilt food because for once, wasted food is wasted money and effort.
Potatoes are surely one of those staples everyone wants to store. There are different ways in which you can store these tubers. The first question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to store raw or cooked potatoes.
From there, we’ll present several ways in which you can keep your potatoes fresh throughout the season. Let’s begin with some tips on how to make raw potatoes last longer. If you do it right, you’ll be able to successfully store your potatoes for 4 to 5 months for an early crop and 5 to 10 months for a late crop!
5 Tips to Store Your Potatoes
Store Unwounded Potatoes
When choosing what potatoes to store, always start with good quality ones. If you’re harvesting it directly from your garden, be careful not to bruise or wound your potatoes. Wounded potatoes are not good candidates for storage.
Potatoes that have cuts are prone to rotting. Open wounds are an invitation for fungi and bacteria to thrive on. That’s why you’ll easily notice how fast decomposition happens when there’s a cut in a potato.
Make sure to consume the wounded potatoes first. They’re the first ones to go out of the bucket.
Provide Enough Airflow
When it comes to stacking or arranging your potatoes, remember to make enough room for proper air circulation. Fruits and vegetables release water vapor into the air. Storing it in a well-ventilated area will help dissipate the moisture.
This will prevent molds from developing. Also, when your potatoes have good access to ventilation, there’s less chance of spreading fungi or bacteria within the entire batch.
Store in a Cool, Dark, Dry Area
Light and temperature influence the transpiration rate of the vegetable you are storing. When they transpire, they lose moisture. And because they’re no longer connected to the living plant, they have no way of replacing the water they’ve lost.
To avoid a faster rate of transpiration, it’s best to store potatoes in a cool, dark place. It has to be dry as well. If you have an existing root cellar, that’s the best place to keep the crop for long term storage. A cool, dark place will prevent the potato from turning green.
The appropriate storage temperature range for an early crop potato is 40oF (4.4oC) while 38 to 40oF (3.3 to 4.4oC) for the late crop. If it’s winter, potatoes will freeze when the temperature reaches 30.9oF (-0.6oC) so make sure to watch out for that. A warmer temperature of 45oF and above will cause the potatoes to sprout.
Maintaining high relative humidity is also important to avoid rapid moisture loss. For potatoes, you have to maintain around 90 to 95% humidity. If your potatoes start wilting, it’s an indication that it’s losing more water.
Place in an Open Bowl or Paper Bag
Using the right packaging when storing is another way to ensure that your potatoes will remain fresh. Do not use plastic bags as a storage package for your vegetable. Plastics will contain the heat causing your potatoes to release moisture in a faster way.
Have you noticed how fast droplets form when you place vegetables inside a plastic? Those water droplets are a result of condensation. It can hasten the rotting process of your potato.
Apart from that, an enclosed plastic bag will limit air circulation. What you can use as an alternative is a paper bag. You may also use open bowls or perforated baskets.
Check Your Potatoes Regularly
Of course, storing your potatoes would require that regularly visit them. It’s important that you check the status of the storage area and see whether the temperature is maintained or there’s enough humidity. It will also give you the early chance to spot rotting potatoes if there are.
If you’re not checking, you wouldn’t know in advance if there are problems in the storage. If there are things that go bad in the storage, you’ll be able to find solutions before all the potatoes get spoilt.
How to Store Cured and Fresh Potatoes?
Before you jump directly into storing your potatoes, there are some important steps you have to follow. This will ensure that the storage process will be successful.
Cure the Potatoes
Curing or suberization is the process of giving your potatoes sufficient time to heal wounds. After harvest, some potatoes would have been cut and bruised by accident. In order for the wounds to close, you have to keep it in a place with 50-60°F with high relative humidity (95%) for 10 to 14 days.
The good thing about curing is that it also allows time for the skin of unwounded potatoes to thicken. Successfully cured potatoes are the best candidates for storage.
Grade the Potatoes
Grading is important when storing any raw food. You have to choose which potatoes are best for storing and which ones should be consumed immediately. Not all potatoes can go inside the storage area.
In grading, consider the thickness of the skin. Choose the ones without cuts or blemish. Remove those that look shriveled, diseased, soft, and green in color.
Keep Them Dry
If you buy your potatoes in the market, there’s a high chance that they’re already clean. You may choose to wash them again or not. It’s okay either way but make sure that they’re dry before you store them.
For newly harvested potatoes, you may just scrub off the soil and store it without washing. This will save you time.
What is important is that you have to keep the potatoes dry before you store them. This is to avoid the possibility of developing molds that will cause the crop to rot early.
Pack Them Loosely
Once dried, pack the potatoes in a way that there’s enough air circulation. You can use paper bags if your packing small numbers of potatoes in your kitchen. Or, you may use bigger containers like a cardboard box, burlap bag, or crates if you have lots of potatoes to keep.
Never use a plastic bag for packing. Choose only a ventilated container.
Prepare the Storage Area
Make sure the place is well-ventilated and no direct light is coming in. The area must be dry and humid. Also, check if there are any holes and patch them. We don’t want any mouse to discover our stored potatoes.
Place your potatoes there and safely tuck them in. You may keep a thermometer in the room to monitor the temperature.
Additional Storage Tips
Aside from the classic method of potato storage, there are also other ways in which you can prolong its shelf life. Again, it depends on how you want to consume the tubers. Aside from the first one, the following items will teach how to store potatoes that are ready to use. Here are some of them:
Rebury Your Potatoes
If you don’t have space for storage, don’t worry because you can simply dig up the soil where you’ve harvested the potato and keep it there. Yup, it’s that simple. All you need is to harvest the potato, cut off the vine on top and bring it back in the soil.
Make sure that the holes are at least six inches and that the potatoes are loosely covered by soil on top. Put straw or newspaper to add extra protection from moisture. If it gets moist or wet, it will rot.
One advantage of reburying potatoes is that you can have it as fresh as a newly harvested one.
Pressure Can the Potatoes
Another way to prolong the life of potatoes is by processing them. Pressure canning is one way to do it. This is a safe method you can do at home to preserve your whole or sliced potatoes for long-term use.
Peeled potatoes should be packed in jars before it is placed in a pressure canner with 2 to 3 inches of water. The canner is then heated up to 240oF to destroy organisms that are responsible for spoilage such as Clostridium botulinum.
Slice and Blanch Potatoes for Freezer
If you have enough room in your freezer, you can utilize that in preserving potatoes. You have to peel, slice, and wash the potatoes first. Next, blanch the sliced potatoes in water for 3 to 5 minutes.
Proper blanching is important because it will kill the enzymes preventing the potatoes from turning brown. After that, drain the sliced tubers and let it cool. Pack them, put on the label then freeze.
Dehydration is another simple method to preserve potatoes. The process of dehydration involves removing moisture to inhibit the growth of bacteria and molds. To do so, you have to provide low humidity, warm temperature, and good air circulation.
You can slice your potatoes thinly so the drying process is faster. If you have a dehydrator, that’s an advantage. Oven and microwaves are also good alternatives to facilitate drying. If none of those are present, air drying should be fine too.
What You Shouldn’t Do?
Don’t Store Next to Bananas Or Apples
Bananas and apples are considered climacteric fruits, meaning they continue to ripen even after they’re harvested. They produce ethylene gas, a plant hormone that induces ripening. That’s why when you keep just one ripe banana in a basket, all the bananas in there will ripen as well.
In potatoes, the ethylene gas will cause sprouting to happen. So, it’s important that you keep it away not just from apples and bananas but from other climacteric fruits as well.
Don’t Store in Refrigerator Or Freezer
Storing raw and uncooked potatoes in the fridge is a big no-no. Extremely low temperatures will convert the starch into reducing sugars. When cooked at very high temperatures, this sugar will form a carcinogenic substance known as acrylamides.
If you want your potatoes stored in the refrigerator, make sure they’ve gone through partial cooking. Or else, you’ll miss the chance of having a steady supply of tubers for your mashed potatoes.
Don’t Wash before Storing
The danger of washing potatoes before storing is that you’re increasing the chance of mold development. When you store moist potatoes, it’s easier for fungi to reproduce and infect the tubers. If you mean to wash your potatoes, make sure that it gets really dry, otherwise, it’s doomed to perish.
4 tips Selecting Best Potatoes (when buying)
Firm to Touch
Mature potatoes are firm to touch. The skin must be thick as well. If the skin is thin and easily rubs off, then that potato must have been harvested early.
Immature potato is not ideal for storing. Do not choose shriveled potatoes as well. Those types are most probably close to getting spoilt.
Choose the ones that have smooth skin to ensure that it’s healthy and free of diseases. Potatoes that have rough and corky skin indicates that the crop has potato scab. It’s caused by the bacterium Streptomyces scabies.
Check for Bruises or Injuries
It’s easy to get excited when doing groceries and grab the first ones we see. But, make sure to check for bruises and injuries before you put it in your grocery bag. Wounded tubers won’t have a long shelf life because bacteria and fungi will easily cause spoilage.
Although it’s safe to eat a potato with sprout, they’re definitely not fit for preserving. Don’t ever buy tubers with even small sprout peeping especially if you mean to keep it for a long period. Once sprouting begins, shriveling of the whole crop will follow.
What Happens When the Potatoes Are Sprouting?
When the tubers start producing sprout, it means that they’re spending all the reserved food inside to sustain the growth of a new plant. Because of that, the crop will start to shrivel and shrink. Even when you remove the sprout, new ones will come out through time so it’s best to remove it from the entire batch.
You can safely eat the sprouted tubers as long as it is palatable to your taste. You may also plant it in your backyard if you wish.
What Is the Best Way to Store Potatoes at Home?
The best way to keep your tubers fresh depends on your purpose. If you have a lot of raw tubers and you have enough space, better leave it raw. However, if you want to have supplies that you can easily grab for your daily cooking, then go for the processed ones.
Processing may require a lot of effort in the beginning but will save you time when it’s time to prepare your food.
How Do You Store Potatoes Long Term?
You can keep potato tubers for a prolonged period either by keeping it raw or processed. If raw, you just have to choose the superb ones, pack them well and place them in a root cellar or any place you find fit. If processed, make sure you implement safety measures to avoid early spoilage and food poisoning.
To be successful in storing, remove the rotten, green, and sprouting tubers from the entire batch once spotted. Check on the temperatures and make sure it’s always warm. Increase humidity if needed and avoid exposure to light.
Should Potatoes Be Stored in the Fridge?
Raw potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. The cold temperatures will cause the tubers to turn sweet because the starch will be converted to reducing sugars. The dangerous part is that when this sugar is exposed to high temperatures, it will produce acrylamides which s carcinogenic.
That’s why it’s dangerous to put potatoes in the fridge and cook them like french fries or mashed potatoes.
How Long Can You Store Potatoes?
Raw potato tubers can be kept fresh for months. If you do it the right way, you’ll have a steady supply for the next 4 to 5 months (early crop) or even as far as 5 to 10 months (late crop). You have to make sure that the area where you place them has the ideal condition.
Root cellar, kitchen cabinets, and other locations where it’s dark, highly humid, and warm are recommended. Wrap them with paper bags or perforated containers to ensure that there’s enough room for air circulation. Make it a habit to check on them once in a while.
How Long Do Potatoes Last?
Potato tubers can last for months if properly stored. Make sure that the area is kept dark, cool, dry, and well-ventilated. It should be placed in perforated containers, crates, paper bags, or open bowl.
The processed ones will also stay for a longer period given that the processing is done right. You can try different food processing methods such as pressure canning and dehydrating. Or, you may slice, blanch and freeze them in the refrigerator.