How to Store Potatoes

Potatoes have long been considered one of the most valuable of food storage crops. In the 1800s, they were the primary food of many Irish and Scottish families. Nutritious and tasty, potatoes can be grown in all USDA Zones with careful attention to varieties and planting times. They can be stored in several different ways, each with its own advantages.


How Do I Grow Potatoes?

To grow potatoes, you need fertile, well-drained soil. It should be high in humus and slightly acid. Plant after the danger of frost is past, as the sprouts and leaves are very frost-sensitive. Supply water on a regular basis during the period of vegetative growth and flowering. Decrease or stop watering once tops die down. Apply compost or fertilizer regularly.

Do Growing Conditions Affect Storage?

Healthy, well-grown potatoes are more likely to be free of disease and store better. Potatoes that are inadequately fertilized, for example, may not bulk up well and will be more likely to shrivel. Inadequate or irregular watering can result in uneven texture and potatoes stored the longest may be mealy or dry.

Does Harvesting Affect Storage?

Potatoes are easily bruised. They are also susceptible to nicks and cuts from the shovel or fork used in the harvesting process. These problems can affect storage because they increase the risk of fungal disease, bacterial infections and rot. Always handle potatoes gently. If bruises, nicks or cuts occur, set those potatoes aside to eat or process as soon as possible.

Does Climate Affect Storage?

In a word, yes. In very cold climates it may be difficult to protect stored potatoes from freezing, especially if you are trying to store them in an outbuilding or garage. In warm climates, they may begin to sprout early. When temperatures are extreme, the best way to store may be to can or freeze your potatoes.

Why Does Curing Matter?

Curing affects how well and how long potatoes will store. It gives the skins a chance to dry and toughen, which protects the flesh. Cure your potatoes in an area with good circulation – use fans if necessary. Keep newly-harvested potatoes out of direct sun. Potatoes exposed to light can develop high solanine levels, which makes them inedible.

What Are Ideal Potato Storage Conditions?

Potatoes need cool temperatures, high humidity, good ventilation and darkness for best storage. The best place has the following conditions:

  • Temperature – 42 to 50°F (6 to 10°C)
  • Humidity – 90 to 85 percent
  • Ventilation – choose an area that can be ventilated with a door or window
  • Darkness – complete darkness is best to prevent greening and sprouting.

What Are the Best Storage Varieties?

Generally speaking, potatoes with the longest expected maturity dates will also keep the best. Early season potatoes may only store from one to three months. Late varieties may store up to six months or longer. Certain varieties are known for their storage qualities. These include Burbank Russet, Elba, German Butterball, Katahdin, Red Chieftain, Rose Finn Apple Fingerling, Russian Banana Fingerling, Yukon Gem and Yukon Gold.

How Do I Can Potatoes?

Potatoes are considered a low acid vegetable. While you can use canning as a preservation method, you must have a pressure canner. Small potatoes – about the size of a hen’s egg – can be canned whole. Larger potatoes should be cut in chunks. This ensures the heat from canning will reach the center of the potato. Follow tested recipes exactly.

How Do I Dehydrate Potatoes?

While you should follow a tested recipe, dehydrating potatoes is not difficult. Wash potatoes carefully, cut out any bruises or bad spots and slice about 1/8 inch thick or shred. Immediately place in acidulated water to prevent browning. Blanch until fork tender, strain and cool quickly. Place slices on screens in a single layer and not touching (shreds can overlap a bit). Dehydrate according to manufacturer’s instructions.

How Do I Freeze Potatoes?

Whole and mashed potatoes cannot be frozen. However, shredded potatoes and potatoes cut for french fries handle freezing well. Wash and cut or shred; place in acidulated water. Peeling is optional. Blanch until fork-tender in boiling water, cool in ice water and drain quickly. Package in meal or serving size packages and freeze. Frozen potatoes should not be defrosted before cooking as they will become mushy.

How Do I Manage Stored Potatoes?

Canned potatoes are best stored in a cool, dry place like a basement or pantry. Temperatures above 50 to 70°F (10 to 21°C) can affect quality. Very high temperatures may cause the seals on home-canned foods to deteriorate. Canned potatoes are good for a year; frozen potatoes up to six months. Potatoes in a root cellar should be examined about once a week for signs of disease, shriveling or sprouting.

What Can I Store With Potatoes?

Frozen and canned potatoes can be stored with anything that needs similar storage conditions. Potatoes in a root cellar, however, may be more susceptible to sprouting in some conditions. Onions and fruits – particularly apples – give off ethylene gas that may cause premature sprouting in stored potatoes. You should also store potatoes in single layers, not in a pile.

Can I Store Whole Potatoes?

Fresh, new potatoes don’t store well and should be eaten within a day or two of harvest. Whole mature potatoes store well and depending on the variety may store anywhere from a month to a year. Do not store in plastic bags, as humidity can collect inside the bag. Place the potatoes in single layers in baskets or boxes, with a layer of shredded paper underneath and between each layer of potatoes.

Can I Store Potatoes in the Garden?

If your ground doesn’t freeze hard, you may be able to store potatoes in the garden for a short period. Potatoes don’t tolerate freezing temperatures, so they can’t remain in the garden where the soil freezes. There are some risks with this method, however. The potatoes are more susceptible to rodent and insect attack, as well as to rot in rainy areas. They may also sprout before you can eat them.

Can I Bury Potatoes In the Ground?

Burying potatoes in the ground in suitable containers is a time-honored method of storage. In the past, people used barrels or wooden boxes. You can use a plastic bucket or similar container. Make sure the potatoes are completely dry. Brush off soil and pack in single layers between shredded paper. Bury at least two feet under the soil surface.

Can I Store Potatoes Outdoors?

Whether you can store potatoes outdoors – say in a shed or garage – depends on a number of factors. Can you protect them from rodents or other animals? How cold does it get in winter? Can you provide high humidity and protect them from light? Potatoes don’t tolerate freezing, while overly warm temperatures may cause sprouting. Few outbuildings provide good conditions.

Can I Store Potatoes in the Refrigerator?

A refrigerator might seem as though it offers perfect conditions for storing potatoes – darkness, cool temperatures and humidity. Unfortunately, the temperature is too cool. Most refrigerators maintain a temperature of 35 to 40°F (2 to 7°C), well below the 50°F (21°C) recommended for potatoes. This causes the starch in the tuber to turn to sugar, which negatively affects taste and texture.

How Do I Protect Stored Potatoes?

Rodents are one of the potential problems you will face with stored potatoes. Make sure you use rodent-proof containers or screen your storage areas to keep out both rodents and insects. You should also check your stored potatoes every week or two. If you see signs of mold or rot, for example, remove the bad potatoes immediately.

How Long Will Stored Potatoes Keep?

Stored potatoes will vary in keeping quality. The variety is probably the most important factor – long-storing potatoes will keep many months. No matter what the variety, however, once a potato reaches its genetically-determined dormancy limit, it will begin to sprout. Warm conditions also promote sprouting.

What Can I do With Sprouted Potatoes?

When potatoes. first begin to sprout, it’s easy to cut off the nubbins and use them as you would any potato. If they have sprouted to the point that they are sending up stems and leaves, they will probably not be usable (although you can plant them). Potatoes that have not only sprouted but begun to shrivel can’t be used and usually won’t grow if planted.