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Spud storage—How to store potatoes so they don’t go bad

November 12, 2019

Potatoes are one of those veggies (like onions, garlic, and squash) that are great at hanging in there for months at a time. Given the right care and conditions, of course. Here’s what you need to know to make your spuds stick around.

• Weed out the less-than-stellar potatoes. Remove potatoes that are shriveled, sprouting and have soft spots or other damage. Discard or use those pronto, and store only the good potatoes. BTW, you can eat the potatoes that started sprouting if they’re still firm; just cut out the sprouts.

• Remove any dirt, but don’t wash the potatoes before storing. (If you’ve cut potatoes and can’t cook them right away, submerge the pieces in cold water. They’ll keep for a day or so this way. I do this every Thanksgiving!)

• If you’re storing your own garden-grown potatoes, you’ll want to cure them first to thicken and dry the skins. Simply spread them out in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks. (Placing them on newspaper or straw with a lightweight, dark cloth over them is one option.) If you’re growing your own potatoes, keep in mind that some varieties are better keepers than others. Kennebec and Yukon Golds are especially good for long-term storage, for example. 

• Place potatoes in something that will provide air circulation—like an open basket or mesh bag or, if you have a lot of potatoes to store, a crate with open slats or a laundry basket will work well. You can layer the potatoes in newspapers or straw. Brown paper bags are good (especially if you poke a few holes in them), but never store potatoes in plastic bags. 

• Keep spuds in the dark. Potatoes look nice hanging from the ceiling in those pretty wire kitchen baskets, but they’re better off out of the light. A cupboard drawer or dry basement will do. If you’re having trouble keeping them away from sunlight, cover them with a dark towel. 

• Keep them cool. The best temp is between 45 and 55 degrees (pretty chilly and sometimes hard to come by, unless you have a cellar, heated garage or shed). Just do your best; if they’re in a drawer, make sure it’s not next to the stove or heat vent, for example. And don’t refrigerate them. Too-cold temps will break down the starches into sugars, which will affect their taste and turn them an unappealing brown when cooked. 

• Store them solo. Seems like a no brainer to store your onions and potatoes together, since they like the same storage conditions. But they don’t get along. Both onions and potatoes release moisture, which can up their chances of spoiling. 

• Check on them. Ugh. If something smells rotten in my kitchen, the first thing I check is the potato basket. You know the smell. Peek at your potatoes every week or so. Make sure they aren’t turning green — which means they’ve been exposed to light and will eventually soften. (If the greening is very light, it’s just started. You can cut away the green and use the potato.) Also check for any softening or budding. Remove those potatoes and discard them or eat them up. 

My favorite way to use up potatoes is in a big, family-style au gratin, with leeks, apples, and gruyere cheese. Yours?

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