Learning how to store potatoes correctly is a surprisingly useful skill. The methods I will outline here can be applied to potatoes you have grown and freshly harvested in your garden or those you have purchased fresh from a local farmers market. Learning how to store potatoes before they begin to sprout and spoil also helps to reduce waste, enabling you to enjoy your own home grown, organic spuds for longer.
Nothing tastes better than freshly harvested, home grown spuds. Learning how to store them correctly allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor for longer.
Which Potato Varieties Store Best?
Most potato varieties keep for about 6 months. If stored correctly some can keep for even longer. In general thick skinned russet and brown varietes keep better than red-skinned varieties and small, stubby fingerlings.
Some of the best storing varieties include:
- Burbank Russet
- Red Chieftain
- German Butterball
- Yukon Gold
- Rose Finn Apple Fingerling
- Yukon Gem
Regardless of what variety of potato you choose to grow, you will need to know how to store them correctly. Here are some of the easiest ways to store potatoes.
How to Store Harvested Crops in a Root Cellar
This method of storage simply requires placing the crops in a cool, dark place where they aren’t at risk of freezing. An unheated garage or chilly basement corner can be used as a root cellar.
The ideal conditions for a root vegetable cellar should mimic the crops preferred underground growing conditions. The temperature in your store should range between 45 to 55 ℉. There should also be some air circulation. Adding a small fan helps to keep the air and prevents crops from spoiling.
Underground spaces are often humid, making them ideal for storing crops. Try to keep the humidity levels around your potato store as high as possible.
Before placing your crops in the root cellar you will need to cure them.
How to Cure your Harvest
After harvesting your spuds sort through to find blemish free specimens. They should also be free from large puncture marks. Don’t worry about smaller cuts these harden over during the curing process. Damaged crops are unsuitable for storage and instead should be used as soon as possible.
Be careful when handling and sorting your crop not to damage them. Newly harvested spuds often have a thin skin which is easily bruised.
Lightly rub some of the excess dirt from your selected crop and set them out on a few sheets of newspaper. Don’t wash and clean your crop, dirty spuds keep better. Don’t allow the spuds to touch during the drying process.
Leave the spuds spread out in a dark place for about 2 weeks. During this period they dry out and the skin hardens. Curing the crop in this manner prolongs the length of time that you can store them for.
Following the curing period store your spuds in a ventilated container such as a cardboard box or laundry basket. A hessian or burlap bag, such as LA Burlap Potato Sacks are ideal. These block out lots of light while allowing the air to circulate. You can also use large wooden crates lined with straw. Avoid plastic containers, these encourage moisture retention.
Linen or burlap bags block out lots of light while still allowing air to circulate. This helps to prolong the storage life of your harvest.
While the spuds can now be allowed to touch, it is often better to insulate them individually with shredded paper or straw. Cover the top of the crop, blocking out as much light as possible. Be careful not to cut off air circulation however.
Once stored the spuds can be placed in your root cellar.
Don’t place cured potatoes in a refrigerator. This exposes them to air that is overly dry, causing skin to shrivel.
After placing in the store check your spuds every few weeks to make sure none are sprouting or going soft. Any that are should be removed immediately before they can spoil the entire crop. If stored correctly, the spuds can keep for up to 8 months.
How to Bury an Outdoor Store
Our second how to store potatoes method is also pleasingly simple. It is best used as a short term storage method and isn’t as long lasting as a root cellar. Simply re-bury the potatoes as soon after harvesting as possible.
To bury an outdoor store,use a shovel to dig a broad trench, about 6 inches deep. Place the potato crop in the trench and loosely cover with soil, straw and several layers of newspaper to protect them from the rain.
This keeps the potatoes fresh until you dig them up later in the fall. If you want to extend the crops lifespan after digging them up for a second time you can place them in a root cellar.
Potatoes happily grow underground. Re-burying the crop is an ideal, short term storage solution.
How to Freeze Your Harvest
If you have a lot of freezer space available why not try to store some of your harvest in the freezer? Easier than canning, frozen crops can last for well over a year. Freezing is the longest lasting of our how to store methods, providing a far better result than even placing your crops in a root cellar.
Begin by peeling your potatoes and placing them in cold water. Make sure that they are fully submerged otherwise they turn brown. You may need to cut up larger potatoes. Try to ensure that all the pieces are roughly the same size. This helps to ensure an even blanching time.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Rinse the cut up potatoes before blanching them for 3 to 5 minutes. The larger the pieces the more time they will need to spend in the water.
Cut the spuds into even slices or cubes to ensure an equal cooking time.
With a slotted spoon carefully remove the potato pieces from the water. Plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water. This immediately stops the cooking process preventing your spuds from becoming mushy.
Once cool, drain the spuds and place them in a sealable freezer bag. They can now be placed in the freezer.
When you are ready to use your frozen potato pieces, remove a bag from the freezer, defrost and cook as usual. Allowing the spuds to defrost in a fridge overnight allows for a better texture than defrosting in a microwave.
How to Pressure Can Potatoes
If you want a long term storage solution that doesn’t involve a freezer why not learn how to pressure can your spuds? To do this, as well as a pressure can, you will also need a number of quart-sized mason jars and salt to taste. Vtopmart Mason Jars are ideal. The amount you need depends on how many spuds you intend to keep.
Peel your spuds and remove any eyes. Cut them into half-inch pieces and place in a large bowl filled with cold water.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the potato pieces for 3 to 5 minutes.
Drain and rinse the spuds to remove any starch before placing in the sterilized mason jars. Fill the jars with hot water, leaving about an inch of space at the top for the rim. You can also add 1 teaspoon of salt per jar for a little flavor, if you wish.
Wipe the rims and put on clean rings and lids. Pressure can the jars at 10 pounds of pressure for 40 minutes.
How to Dehydrate Harvested Spuds for Potato Flakes
The most labor intensive method, dehydration allows for long term storage by turning the potatoes into flakes.
Wash and peel your spuds before cooking them until a sharp knife can easily be inserted into them. If you find your knives blunting over time, a whetstone is a great investment. Turn off the heat and allow spuds to cool in the water.
Mash the spuds still in the water. You can also use a stand mixer or immersion mixer. Try to get the cooked spuds as smooth as possible.
Spoon the smooth mash onto dehydrator sheets. The thinner the layer the quicker it dries. Set the temperature for 140 degrees and begin dehydrating the mash.
Check the flakes after 12 hours to see how they are progressing and remove any that are dry. When dry the flakes break easily and don’t bend. This can take up to 36 hours or even longer.
Once dry place the flakes in a food processor and pulverize before storing in an airtight container.
To re-hydrate your flakes, add a tablespoon of butter to 2 cups of water, bring to the boil and add a quarter of a cup of milk and two or three cups of flakes. This makes great mashed potatoes.
Keep your harvested crops away from fresh fruit, particularly apples, pears, melons and bananas. These emit ethylene gas which can cause some crops to spoil. You should also keep them away from other produce to prevent flavor transfer. Onions can be particularly detrimental to potato storage.
When learning how to store potatoes it is important to remember to keep them away from the light. Exposure to too much light can cause crops to develop a green skin which not only tastes bitter but is also toxic. Cut away green parts before cooking.
You may find that your crops, if placed in a root cellar or reburied, develop a sweet taste during storage. This is because they are slowly converting starch to sugar. This can be reversed by removing the spuds from the store a few days before you want to use them. The sugar will then convert back to starch.
Finally, unless you are planning to use them as seed potatoes, remove any sprouts as soon as you notice them. If you do have some leftover spuds, why not try using them to root rose cuttings?
There are a number of different methods to choose from when learning how to store spuds. Whichever how to method you choose, it will be able to enjoy your harvest for longer.
Learning how to store potatoes is a fun process. Just don’t get too ambitious. Aim to store only what you can use during the fall and winter. Once spring begins the crop will start to sprout. Some of these can be reused as seed potatoes, starting the cycle all over again.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.