By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Potatoes can be harvested as you need them, but at some point, you need to dig the whole crop up to preserve them before it freezes. Now that you have a whole bunch of spuds, how to keep potatoes fresh and usable? Storing garden potatoes is easy as long as you have the space and a cool location. You can do a few things before you dig up the taters to ensure that potato storing after harvest is more successful.
How to Store Potatoes
Proper storage of your crop begins with a few cultivation practices prior to harvesting. Severely reduce the water you give the plants for a couple of weeks before harvest. This will toughen up the skins on the potatoes. Make sure you let the vines die all the way back before you dig up the crop. The vines will turn yellow and speckled before they are completely dead, then they dry up and turn brown. Waiting until the plant is dead ensures the maturity of the spuds. These pre-harvest treatments are crucial steps for storing potatoes from your garden.
A consideration on how to store potatoes is curing. Curing is a process that will further toughen up the skin of the tubers. Place the potatoes where there are moderate temperatures but high humidity for ten days. Clean the potatoes after you dig them up and place in a cardboard box or open paper bags in a room that is 65 F. (18 C.) and humidity up to 95 percent.
After the spuds have cured, check them for damage. Remove any that have soft spots, green ends or open cuts. Then keep them in a cooler environment for long-term storage. Choose a dry room with a temperature of 35 to 40 F. (2-4 C.). Ideally, a refrigerator works well, but the crop may be too large to store in your fridge. An unheated basement or garage is also a good choice. Don’t store tubers where temperatures are likely to freeze, as they will crack open.
The length of time and quality of stored potatoes is influenced by the variety of tuber you plant. Red potatoes do not keep as long as the white or yellow skinned varieties. Thick skinned russets have an even longer life. If you tend to grow a variety of kinds of potatoes, use the thinner skinned spuds first.
Potato Storing After Harvest
The tubers can last for six to eight months when stored in cool temperatures. When storing garden potatoes in temperatures above 40 F. (4 C.), they will only last three or four months. The spuds will also shrivel and may sprout. Save a few of these for sowing in April or May. Don’t store potatoes with apples or fruit which give off gases that may cause them to sprout.
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