How to Cure & Store Potatoes
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Potatoes have become one of the most rewarding harvests of our garden. Not only is the harvest abundant, but digging potatoes up is fun for the whole family! There are many different methods for storing potatoes, including: stacking them in a tower; using newspaper-lined laundry baskets; and burying them in the soil. This article covers the method my family uses: storing potatoes in wood shavings. Before potatoes are stored for the long-term, they need to be dried and cured. Follow the steps below to prepare and store your potatoes over the winter.
When are Potatoes Ready to Harvest?
If you are storing potatoes from your garden, make sure that they are ready to harvest before bringing them in. Potatoes are ready to harvest when the vines have died back and the skin is firmly attached. To test your potatoes, dig out a hill or two and rub your hands over the skin. If the skin rubs off easily, the potatoes are not yet ready to harvest. If it stays firmly attached and does not rub off under your fingers, you can dig your potatoes up and take the following steps to effectively store them.
Step 1: Dry the Potatoes
After harvesting potatoes, leave them in a well-ventilated spot out of the sun to dry out. One option is to leave them in the garden on top of the soil, covered to avoid direct sunlight. You could also put them in a shady spot outside or even inside your house. The most important thing to remember during this time is that potatoes need to stay out of the sunlight. Potatoes exposed to sunlight tend to get green skin–something that can be slightly toxic when eaten. To learn more about this occurrence, check out the article on the National Gardening Association’s Learning Library.
Your potatoes should be dry after just a day or two.
Step 2: Brush off Soil, Sort out Any Damaged Potatoes
After the potatoes have dried , brush as much of the dirt off as possible. Not only does this save time when washing before using the potato, but it enables you to see any imperfections the potato may have. I noticed the first time I harvested potatoes that I had gouged a couple with the tines of my pitchfork. These potatoes needed to be eaten sooner rather than later. It also gives you a chance to see if there is any damage from pests–I lost a couple from worms this year. Save the potatoes that are in the best shape for storage, and set aside any damaged potatoes to use as soon as possible.
My chosen brush is a soft brush from my horseback riding days. It’s important to use something that won’t scratch the skin of the potato. You can try an old rag, too. Just be sure you don’t wash the potato before storage–it’s hard to get them really dry afterwards and it lowers the quality of the potato.
Step 3: Cure the Potatoes
Curing your potatoes allows the skin to toughen up and prepares them for longer storage. The curing period should be anywhere from 7-14 days. You want a cool, dark place to cure your potatoes, without sunlight shining on them. The ideal air temperature is 45-60 degrees and you’re looking for a high humidity place – aim for 85-95% humidity. Air flow is another factor you want to consider–the skin of the potatoes needs to breathe to fully cure. In many cases, a basement or garage can be a great option for curing potatoes.
If you don’t have the option of slotted shelving or something that is conducive to airflow, be sure to rotate the potatoes every couple of days throughout the curing process to make sure the entire skin is exposed to air. When I’m not photographing pictures of my potatoes curing, I drape a thin sheet over the edge of the shelf to block out as much light as possible.
Step 4: Store Potatoes in Shavings
Once your potatoes have fully cured, it’s time to pack them up for storage! The method we use here is storing potatoes in pine shavings in a box. You can also use a plastic storage bin, but make sure in either case that you poke holes for ventilation. A root storage bin is also a good option – often, they are lined with burlap which helps keep light out, but allow air circulation.
Start by putting a thin layer of shavings down on the bottom layer of your box.
Next, layer the potatoes in–make sure to leave a little space in between each potato for air flow! Put another thin layer of shavings, then more potatoes, repeating the process until the box is full. Set them in a cool, dark spot for winter storage! The ideal temperature for storing potatoes is between 40-50* Fahrenheit–any cooler and you risk the potatoes freezing, any warmer and the potatoes could start sprouting quicker! The location should also not be too moist or potatoes will start to go bad. Luckily, storing in shavings helps to absorb moisture and prevent the potatoes from getting too wet.
Cover your box or bin with a regular cover, newspaper, or sheet, but make sure that there is still air circulation by poking holes in the side or top of the storage box.
Be mindful to check on your potatoes throughout their storage life. Any that are sprouting or starting to get squishy need to be removed immediately.
Note: a very similar method can be used to store carrots!
A basement or garage is a usually a good storage location for potatoes, but make sure the area is not too moist. They will not keep as long in a refrigerator because the added moisture will develop sugars that cause them to darken when cooked.
For more info on storing veggies, check out these great articles!
- How to Harvest, Cure, & Store Garlic
- How to Store Carrots
- How to Harvest, Cure, & Store Onions
- How to Store Pumpkins