Potato storage techniques

I've tried many things to keep potatoes from sprouting but none have worked well. Any tips for 90-day potato storage would be welcome.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Are you trying to store them indoors or outdoors? John Seymour tells how to make an above ground potato clamp using straw and earth. The key to itseems to be using the straw not just for insulation but for ventilation around the bottom edges of the clamp. Is that one of the things you have tried?

Your storage potatoes need to be really mature so that they are starchy without much sugars. So, of course, "new potatoes" will not store. Dig your mature potatoes after the tops have died back and dried.

What do you think the biggest problems are? Humidity? Temperature? And are these potatoes you have grown or potatoes you have purchased? I only purchase potatoes and they keep pretty well in a dark bin in my kitchen separated from other foods. But I've read that commercial potatoes may have been treated to keep them from sprouting so easily. https://www.decodedscience.org/chemical-treatment-of-potatoes-to-inhibit...

Some of the older houses here have little tilt out bins built into exterior kitchen walls. I've been told that was for winter potato storage, though of course it could have been used for other things, too.

Serinde's picture

We grow all our own spuds, and over the years have tried various varieties. Some store better than others and there's a reason for this -- at least in my part of the world. In the UK, we have (broadly) 1st and 2nd earlies, salad potatoes and main crop. We take our tatties seriously! :-)

Earlies are called that because you can plant them early in the season, say in March or April, and you'll get a crop sooner. You can grow them in bags really easily, too, and as long as the shaws don't get frosted your crop will be fine. They are bred to be dug up as you want to eat them over a few weeks, and are happy in the ground over the summer for that short time, so no storage problem. Salad potatoes, like Charlotte, are small and waxy so great for boiling and (surprise!) potato salad. They also grow well in bags. You can also leave them in the ground to bulk up, as we discovered by accident last year, and they store well.

But generally you'd only try to store the main crop potatoes that are harvested in the autumn (varieties like Maris Piper, King Edward, Desiree, etc.). We keep ours in the dark pantry, off the floor in a double thickness of hessian sacking with another sack laid over the top for further protection from light. They go into their sacks having spent a day outside directly after harvest so they dry off -- most importantly -- so they are relatively clean & dry when they go into storage. Ours will last from October to March without sprouting, and at the moment the last of the King Edwards look odd, but we peel and eat them as normal because they haven't gone soft.

mountainmoma's picture

I harvested my potatoes last August and stopped eating them this March. You dont store them at room temperature, you store them in a cool area that doesnt freeze. They need to breath. Carol Deepe stored hers in paper bags in her garage in Oregon ( eugene area, garage doesnt freeze)

She has a good essay all about potatoes, here https://caroldeppe.com/The%2020%20Potato%20a%20Day%20Diet.html They ate potatoes from harvest time until March, probably 5 or 6 months.

"....I began my Nearly All Potato Winter right after Nate finished harvesting, and we stood in our attached garage gloating over an entire wall of shelves of bags of potatoes—about 1200 pounds, of 18 varieties. “Whatever else,” I said happily, “We’re going to eat well this winter!”....."

David Trammel's picture

About all I buy at the grocery store are small potatoes I can toss into the steamer. Even those don't store well. After 3-4 weeks they all have sprouted.

These are store-bought potatoes. Idaho russet baking potatoes. I store them indoors. I have tried keeping them with a few apples, said to suppress sprouting. Meh. Sort of. I have tried keeping them in the fridge (no good), out of the fridge, in the dark in cloth bags, paper bags, in boxes with ventilation at the bottom but no light overhead, covered by heavy cloth. Better, but they still only keep less than three weeks. I once tried keeping them in a box with sand. That was the best. I have a slanty box with a lid said to be an onion box, but it has a glass top that lets in far too much light. But I just do not understand how people kept potatoes from sprouting over three long months. It is it a matter of removing oxygen from the storage bin, like putting a rusty nail in the bin, or light a bit of candle that exhausts the air when you close the lid? Did they just leave them in the ground, outside? And only dig them out when wanted? How did they deal with a hard frost when the ground won’t yield? Do potatoes want to be all closed in by dirt and no sissy substitute like being swaddled in opaque paper or cloth will do? What DO potatoes want? It is a mystery to me.

ClareBroommaker's picture

I was reading an old Gene Logsdon book this evening , Homesteading: How to Find New Independence on the Land (1973) where he says, "Potatoes need a dry, cool dark storage bin, kept at abut 40 degrees with good air circulation. However, I 'store' mine right in the ground where they are growing. They'll last to frost time. [He writes from SE Pennsylvania.] With a covering of mulch, they'll last on until Thanksgiving in a normally dry fall. During winter, you can store potatoes in boxes of dry sand with hay bales ranked two deep around the boxes. You can store any root crop that way."

Sounds to me like the key is cool and dry. My kitchen is about 63-65 F and the potatoes are in the open bag I bought them in, set inside a plastic dishpan bin on the floor with a dark blue napkin laid over to exclude light. I'm happy enough with how long they last.

I tried to look this up on the internet because this must be a hugely studied matter, as important as the potato is. I did find info about ethylene gas and potato sprouting. Apples give off ethylene. But it seems like without real specific info on the variety of potato you have, its maturity at harvest, and it's aging since, then you cannot really make a good prediction what the ethylene will do to the potatoes. In some cases it will retard sprouting, but in some cases, I think I was understanding, it will encourage sprouting.

Hope someone comes along who knows what they are talking about when it comes to potato storage.

Do you live where potatoes are commonly grown on large farms? If so and if you are buying them when they are first harvested, perhaps you are getting the really delicious fresh ones that have not been commercially treated against sprouting. My son lives in the middle of potato farms and gets given bags and bags of potatoes every year, but I'll have to ask him how well they keep. . If you are buying a large quantity to have on hand, perhaps they will be better storing potatoes if you delay the purchase until a month later when they certainly will have been treated.

This is useful info for devising a more effective storage strategy for my taters. Thanks very much!

I grow Dark Red Norland potatos and store them in a root cellar. Wyoming ground temperature tends to be around 40F so they will usually keep well until April or so when the air temperature outside gets high enough to start them sprouting. I do have to keep an eye on the forecast in the winter and put a supplemental heat source in the cellar if outside temperatures are going to be below -20F for an extended period. The last two winters were colder than usual and we had overnight temperatures of -42 to -45F, but I was able to keep them from freezing with a small electric milkhouse heater in the cellar.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

On this subject I am not the person that CB hopes comes along. I can share a bit of my personal observations.
I do grow white potatoes but in my area they only do well as a Spring planted crop and thus are dug before the hottest part of the Summer. If left in the ground more than a few weeks after the vines die back they tend to develop an "off" flavor at least to my taste. Possibly this is variety dependent. I typically grow a red skinned variety; Red Pontiac. I haven't had much success with storage in the Summer beyond a month or so with the means available to me. I have experimented with plantings for Fall harvest though yields are seldom worth the effort. On the occasions that I get at least some yield I have achieved satisfactory storage up to 4 months with storage in the dark, well ventilated, and temps in the 40-55F range. Potatoes not washed post harvest and Red Pontiac variety. Judging from potatoes that I am currently buying it is possible to achieve longer storage under the proper conditions. I am buying bags of Russets at Walmart that are flawless and per the bag are of US origin thus last years harvest. Within a couple of weeks of purchase and storage in a closet at ~70F they are sprouted so clearly this is not the optimal storage condition. If any sprout inhibiter is applied to these it clearly isn't doing much at 70F. These are in fact such vigorous sprouters that I bought 20 lbs a couple of weeks ago to use as seed potatoes for this Springs planting. It will be the first year that I have not planted the Red Pontiacs.