How to Store Potatoes

Whether you have purchased too many potatoes at the grocery store or just harvested your garden, you need to know how to store potatoes. Here's how to make them last.

Temperature
Most research on potato storage finds that they should be kept at a temperature around 45 to 50 degrees. This temperature range has been shown to encourage the longest length of dormancy, which is the period before potatoes sprout, as well as the highest level of health for the potatoes. Those that are stored in warmer temperatures will sprout much more quickly, which you want to avoid.

The Basic Storage Process
First, examine your potatoes one by one. If any of them have begun to sprout, turn green, bruise or look sickly or just a bit funny, use them promptly, or throw them out. You do not want to store sick potatoes because they will infect the healthy ones.

Once you have discarded the unwanted potatoes, decide where you want to store them. The best place to store potatoes is in a cool, dark and well-ventilated cellar. If you don't have a cellar, choose another place in your home to store them. Potatoes should not be stored where there is light because this will cause greening of the skin, which is toxic.

Place the unwashed potatoes for storage into a large burlap bag, or a brown paper bag with holes, and put them away. Most potatoes that are stored properly should keep for 3 to 6 months. If you do decide to keep them for this long, check on them once in a while to be sure that none have sprouted or turned green.

Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator, ever. The refrigerator maintains a temperature far below the recommended range, and the starch of the potatoes will turn into sugar, making the potatoes taste sweet, and they will darken during cooking.

Sprouts
You may have heard that sprouted potatoes are toxic. This is partially true. Potatoes that have sprouted have completed their dormancy stage. When potatoes sprout, the starch is converted to sugar. While the sprouts and eyes are considered toxic, if your potato has sprouted slightly, you can cut the sprouts off, and the potato will still be edible.

Most large-scale potato harvesters use sprout inhibitors to keep the potatoes from sprouting before selling them at the market. CIPC, or chlorpropham, is a chemical sprout inhibitor that has been used for around 40 years in the United States. Therefore, if you simply want to store potatoes you purchased at the market, chances are the inhibitors have already been applied.

Research on organic sprout inhibition has shown that certain essential oils, such as peppermint or clove oil, are also successful sprout inhibitors. If you plan to store a large amount of potatoes from your garden, consider using these inhibitors.

Greening
Potatoes that are exposed to light or stored at temperatures above the recommended range of 45 to 50 degrees will green more quickly. This causes the potato to form solanum alkaloids, which are toxic to the body and can affect the nervous system in high doses. If a potato has turned green in patches, you can cut off the green area and the rest of the potato will be fine, but potatoes that have turned largely green should not be eaten.

Canning
If you want to store your potatoes in a way that will keep them much longer than the method described above, you might want to try canning. However, if canning is not done properly, harmful bacteria can grow, causing sickness and sometimes death. Canned potatoes, however, are delicious in soups and other recipes, and the process is recommended if you do your research and find a good step-by-step recipe for canning potatoes.

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