Did you know that, stored in the right way, a potato can last for several months? Proper potato storage will help you get the most value out of these versatile vegetables, whether bought in bulk from the farmers’ market or fresh dug from your carefully tended patch.
Let’s crack on and find out how to really take care of those spuds…
1. Stop the rot
One of the main threats to a potato in storage is rot. Before you put your potatoes away, sort through them and pull out any with bruises, broken skin, greening or other visible damage. These kind of mishaps can cause a potato to rot faster than usual and, if stored as is, could potentially spread rot to undamaged potatoes.
If just a few potatoes are affected, cut off the offending parts for the compost, then wash and store the good bits of the damaged spuds in a pot of cold water to stop them discolouring. Cook up these rescued morsels within a day or so.
When a big crop is looking a little worse for wear, it’s possible to attempt a rescue by ‘curing’ the potatoes…
2. ‘Cure’ a potato to heal them and for longer storage
This stage is optional, though a good idea if you plan to eat the potatoes over several months.
The curing process hardens off the skin, helping the potato last several months longer than an uncured spud in similar storage conditions. Curing also ‘heals’ superficial damage to prevent any rot finding a way into the flesh during storage.
If the potatoes have just been dug from the soil and are very dirty, use a dry brush to gently take off any big clumps of dirt. Don’t do any serious scrubbing at this point!
Only wash potatoes when you’re ready to cook them. Getting them wet before storage simply makes them more likely to rot.
In a dim room, lay out your potatoes in a single layer on newspaper or an old sheet and cover with a thick sheet or old towels to block out any light. Thin skinned potatoes will cure in around 7 days, whereas you may have to leave thicker skinned potatoes for up to 10 days.
Before storing, check through your potatoes again to make sure any damage has ‘healed’ and remove any that still look as if they may rot.
3. Find a well-ventilated container
Well ventilated potatoes will stay nice and firm. No airtight containers or plastic bags, unless you want to encounter a soggy mess!
If your potatoes came in a mesh bag, this is fine for storage. Other container options include old cotton tote bags, loosely woven fabric sacks, wicker baskets and ventilated cardboard boxes. If you’re stacking your potatoes, add a page of newspaper between each layer and cover the top layer lightly with another sheet.
4. Healthy spuds like to hang out in the dark and cool
Store your packed potatoes somewhere dark and dry to prevent premature sprouting, greening and rotting. Once upon a time, houses were built with cellars and root stores for this purpose, but if yours is somewhat more modern then a little used cupboard, a dry under-sink or garage will be fine.
Make sure the area is unheated. Potatoes keep for their longest at temperatures of less than 10°C .
Wherever you decide to put them, don’t let your potatoes be at risk of freezing as this can cause the skin to break open. When they get too cold potatoes discolour and develop an unappetising sweetness.
5. Don’t let your potato get friendly with fruit
When fruits ripen they give off a gas called ethylene. This speeds ripening in other fruit nearby – and will also promote early sprouting in potatoes if they’re stored in the same place. Not what you want! Keep fruit stores elsewhere if you want your potatoes to last.
6. Check for spoiled potatoes on a regular basis
Make a note in your diary to briefly examine the stored spuds every couple of weeks. Rot can spread quickly so get rid of any baddies in good time – look out for green areas, sprouts or mouldy bits. Any green sections and sprouts can be removed and the rest of the potato cooked as usual, but rotten potatoes belong on the compost heap.