Monday, September 23, 2013

Harvesting and Storing Potatoes

Each year I grow potatoes in barrels. I get enough from three barrels for Wayne and I to enjoy through the winter. I've found that Yukon Golds make a nice sized spud that stays firm and fresh when stored for months. Any that do sprout by spring I use for seed potatoes. The barrel on the left is ready to dig because the plants have died back. The one on the right isn't ready yet.

This week I dug up two barrels worth to store for winter use. First I let the soil in the barrels dry. I find digging the potatoes out with my hand is easiest on me and the potatoes. Eliminating cuts from sharp objects helps the potatoes store better. To help keep my digging hand and nails cleaner, I wear a latex glove.

As I dig, I remove the dry dirt to make it easier to find the potatoes all the way at the bottom. I save the soil for use again in next year's potato barrels. For storage, I put the soil in plastic yard bags and let it dry some more. After sealing the bags, I store them in the shed. Using my own seed potatoes and saving my soil greatly reduces the cost of growing potatoes each year.

Here's my bounty from just one half 55-gallon barrel. I left them in the sun to dry and to allow the skin to firm up. It's best not to wash potatoes before storage. Just brush off any excess dirt and then inspect them for damage. Damaged spuds should be eaten as soon as possible. They do not store well and may damage your good produce.

Always store potatoes away from light and temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius are best. If they get too cold, the starch will turn to sugar and cause them to be sweet. Paper bags, burlap bags or cardboard boxes are good for potato storage. Do not use a plastic bag. Trapped moisture will accelerate spoilage. Avoid storing potatoes with apples, onions or garlic. They produce a gas that causes potatoes to spoil quickly. If potatoes are exposed to the light they will turn green. Remove any green portions before eating. Potatoes are a member of the Deadly Nightshade family, and the green part is poisonous.

I wrap my potatoes in newspaper and store them is open sided plastic baskets ($1.00 each at the Dollar Store). This keeps them away from the light and separates them from neighboring potatoes. The paper allows the potatoes to "breathe" but also prevents too much moisture from escaping. I keep the baskets under the bed in the downstairs guest room, the coolest place in the cabin. Properly stored potatoes will remain dormant and will not sprout for about three months after harvesting. That makes for lots of comfort food meals throughout the winter months. -- Margy

2 comments:

  1. Great post - we are planning to grow some potatoes on our deck next summer - good tips. Thanks

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  2. JoAnn - They are so easy. The trick is to start with only a few inches of soil and keep adding more as the plants grow until the barrel is full. This way more potatoes are produced all the way from the bottom to the top of the soil. - Margy

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