How to Cure and Store Potatoes

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Storing potatoes

Potatoes are one of my favorite crops, and each year I grow a selection of different varieties. I do well enough growing great potatoes, but potato storage stumped me for years. The house is too warm and the refrigerator is too cold, plus you're fighting Mother Nature. The natural dormancy period for most potatoes is only two to three months, so storing potatoes through winter involves a bit of botanical trickery.

And boy, do I need tricks. In my climate, spring-planted potatoes mature in July, which allows enough growing time for replacement crops like fall broccoli or kohlrabi. As for storing potatoes through summer, the best method I have found is to lift them from the row and immediately bury them in broad trenches so they are covered with 6 inches (15 cm) of loose soil. I cover the mound with several folds of newspaper to help it shed excess rain. The buried potatoes wait out warm weather in cool, moist soil, and can be handled like newly harvested potatoes when the soil begins to cool in the fall.

Potatoes in a trench

The Art of Curing Potatoes

Potato varieties vary in the thickness of their skins. Most red-skinned potatoes and fingerlings have thin skins, while big russets and many other brown-skinned potatoes have thicker coats. In between are many multi-purpose potatoes like the purple potato I've been growing for years. When nicely cured, it develops a very thick skin, which is a top characteristic of a good storage potato. All potatoes lose moisture in storage, but those with thick skins stay sound longer.

Hence the need to separate potatoes by type as they come in from the garden, and give each an appropriate curing period – usually 7 to 10 days. Before curing potatoes, I lightly rinse them in cool running water to remove excess soil, but I make no attempt to remove soil from eyes and crevices. Serious scrubbing should always be delayed until just before the potatoes are cooked.

Russet potatoes ready for curing and storing

After patting the spuds dry, I lay them out in a cool, dim room covered with a cloth or towels to block out sunlight. During this time the skins will dry, small wounds will heal over, and new layers of skin will form where the outer layer peeled or rubbed off. Thin-skinned potatoes cure faster than those with thick skins, which may benefit from a few more days of curing time.

Sorting and Storing Potatoes

My favorite fingerlings don't hold up well in storage no matter how well they are cured, so I set these aside for eating in the fall, and keep the little darlings in a cardboard box under my bed. I sort my other cured potatoes by type, and place them in small cardboard boxes or bins, which are moved to the basement where winter temperatures average around 55°F (13°C). There they stay until they are gone.

Storing homegrown potatoes

Unfortunately, displaying your beautiful potatoes in a bowl on your countertop will not do. In addition to turning green from light exposure, warm temperatures encourage potatoes to break dormancy and start sprouting. In a potato storage study from the University of Idaho, students took potatoes home and stored them in various places, ranging from a kitchen countertop to the refrigerator to a box in an unheated garage. Unheated spaces like basements and garages with average temperatures around 55°F (13°C) gave the best results. When refrigerated, potatoes develop sugars that cause them to darken when cooked.

Commercial potato storage facilities keep temperatures at 45°F (8°C), but the constant cool temperatures in caves such as those in the southern Cappadocia region of Turkey have proven to be ideal places for storing potatoes. In the US, early settlers from Tennessee to Oklahoma used caves for storing potatoes and other crops. In the state of Missouri alone, eight caves bear the name, Potato Cave. Of course a root cellar would be ideal, but I'll never grow enough potatoes to justify such a huge project. Instead I exploit the most cave-like places I can find in my house for storing potatoes, be they in the basement or under my bed.

By Barbara Pleasant

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Show Comments


"trying to figure out where to store the spuds after being cured as i am in south/central TX,and even indoors with the AC going, there are no nice cool places for them to rest and the garage/sheds etc are totally out of the question the same 'cause when it's HOT HERE IT IS HOT. hhhmmmm will ask around and then SHARE what we get ."
selena on Thursday 25 January 2018
"If you live in the south id recommend the trench method and only growing what you need and re sowing thoughout the year,,, you have the good luck to have the climate to grow year round, take advantage of that and do consecutive sowings."
Angel on Tuesday 15 June 2021
"My basement and garage are too warm or too cold to store potatoes. I could never have the potatoes last more than three months for me storing them in the basement or garage so ten years ago, I turned the extra basement fridge up to its highest setting so that it's 47 degrees. After curing my potatoes for week, I store them in the basement fridge where they keep for 6 months or more. The last few years I've grown over 50 lb of potatoes and I'm still eating them well into April after digging them up in September. They don't turn brown when I cook them because they don't develop extra sugars in them because the temperature is just right. The warning not to store your potatoes in the fridge is because refrigerators are usually set at 40 degrees or a bit lower. If you have an old fridge that you can set so that it's between 45 to 50, that's really the best way to store potatoes as far as I'm concerned. "
Jonas Slonaker on Saturday 18 September 2021
"Great advice here from gardeners who learned what storage methods worked for them!"
Barbara Pleasant on Friday 25 August 2023

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