As summer comes to a close we are digging up our potatoes here at Pine Mountain. Though I have been told that the harvest is relatively light compared to previous years, we are stilled faced with the question of how to best store potatoes so that they last throughout the winter. The easy answer is usually to store potatoes in a cool, dry, and dark place, such as a basement; however, storing potatoes in a basement is not always an option here in Eastern Kentucky. Here we will try to provide several more creative options for potato storage, so that those without basements and root cellars can enjoy their potatoes throughout the winter too!
Practical Tips for Potato Storage
1.) Do not wash potatoes before storing.
2.) Store potatoes in an area that is well ventilated.
3.) Avoid wet or humid areas for storage.
4.) The best temperature range for storing potatoes is between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit
5.) Store potatoes in a dark area; when a potato is exposed to sunlight or artificial light it will begin to turn green. This change is due to an increase in glycoalkaloids, which are poisonous when eaten.
6.) Do not store potatoes with onions.
7.) Pre harvest: Some sources suggest that you cut the growth of the potato plants off to ground level and then leave potatoes in the ground for an additional 2 weeks to allow the skin to toughen for better storage.
The Idaho Center for Potato Research and Education provides a wealth of information about potato harvesting and storage: http://www.kimberly.uidaho.edu/potatoes/index.htm
Potato Storage Options
1.) Make your own outdoor root cellar:
a.) Dig a hole in the yard near your house; the size of the hole should be based on how large you want your root cellar to be, and what type of container you will use for your root cellar.
b.) You may want to use a 5 gallon bucket if your potato harvest was small, or a metal or plastic trash can if you want to store more potatoes.
c.) Drill holes in the bottom of the container; this allows for proper ventilation.
d.) Place your can into the soil, letting three to four inches of the can stick up above the soil’s surface, and pack some of the excavated soil tightly around the sides of the can.
e.) Then put the lid on your container and cover with a bale of hay and a tarp so that water will run off.
2.) Easy indoor storage
a.) Store potatoes in a cardboard or wooden box and place in a closet. If the box you choose is airtight, drill holes in it to allow for ventilation.
We here at Pine Mountain are some of the lucky few who have a basement of sorts!
b.) Store potatoes in a wicker basket (with a top) or netted bag. Make sure you rotate potatoes every so often so that potatoes on the bottom don’t begin to mold, and always keep them in a dark cool place.
Here’s to hoping your potato harvest is bountiful and keeps you fed through the winter!