These versatile tubers can be used to create some magical tasting dishes. Even the simplest of recipes seem to taste extra special when you prepare them with freshly picked vegetables from the garden. Potatoes are among some of the popular crops grown in gardens or even in containers. Growing potatoes is one thing. But how to store potatoes from garden? This is another whole topic to study. These tubers cannot be left out in the freezing winter, and so you might have to harvest the entire bunch. But then what do you do with the lot? How do you store it in case you plan to use it for cooking? How do you store it in case you wish to use it for the next batch for your garden? Let’s answer all these questions one by one.
The key is to know the steps involved before the harvest and understand the optimal conditions to give after harvest. Equipped with the knowledge, you would be ready to grow this easy to grow vegetables in your garden. If you do not manage to keep the entire batch fresh the first time, do not lose hope. You can always try and improve your storage conditions and look for the possible gaps in storage that can eliminate rotting and sprouting prematurely.
What Do You Need in Order to Plan Your Potato Storage?
When it comes to storing the potatoes, the first step is to know what kind of storage you need, based on the application.
For picking and storing potatoes for planting next season, you will need:
For picking and storing potatoes for cooking
Remember that potatoes taste best when you consume them as early as possible after the harvest. The new potatoes are picked earlier than the ones chosen as a maincrop for planting. Besides the harvesting time, you should also be aware of the best varieties of potatoes that store well. Understanding which variety does well when stored for a long time is a critical step in storage. Recycled cartons and bins are the best choices when it comes to storage. You can also use wooden crates.
Steps to Store Potatoes from The Garden
1. Finding Out the Best Time to Harvest Potatoes
The right time to harvest the potato depends on the application itself. New potatoes are the ones that you harvest to consume immediately. These are the best-tasting potatoes and are harvested early. Roughly 2 months after you plant your potatoes, they might be ready to harvest. Check out for the appearance of flowers.
Within 2 or 3 weeks from the appearance of flowers, your potatoes are ready to harvest for kitchen use.
2. Finding Out the Best Applications for Each Potato Variety
You might already know that there are several varieties of potatoes, and they all taste different. However, did you also know that some of them are not very good to store for a long time? Amarosa, Adirondack blue, and huckleberry gold are some varieties that you cannot store for long.
Yukon gold, German butterball, yukon gem are among the varieties that are known to be the right choice for storage. If you happen to choose the unsuitable varieties, then even the best storage conditions cannot give you good results. Pick your potatoes accordingly to earn a success rate for winter storage. To simplify the concept, most of the red and colored varieties might not store as long as white and yellow varieties. Your potato should also be in the category of the late-maturing types.
3. Harvesting the Potatoes for Cooking
If it is for cooking, you can harvest any variety roughly 60 to 70 days from planting or when flowers begin to appear. If you pick just potato or two, you can do so by slightly lifting the plant and picking your potato. You can then place the plant back in place for it to mature or for the plant to produce more tubers. You can continue picking new potatoes or choose to leave it for maincrop.
Use a trowel if the soil feels too tight. Avoid picking potatoes when the soil is damp, or there is waterlogging. If you do not know whether the taters are ready, you can slightly clear the soil close to the stem to look for stolons. Tubers are close to the stolons below the ground.
4. Harvesting Maincrop Potatoes for Storage
The real confusion comes mostly for those who are picking potatoes for long-duration storage. Gardeners often pick potatoes too early and then face disappointment when the crop doesn’t store for the next season. The key is to wait until the plant wilts. Mature maincrop potatoes need to stay in the plant till the plant is over 100 days old. That is, more than 3 months after the planting time, you might notice the plant wither.
Once the plant is entirely dead, you should wait till the soil is dry. Avoid leaving mature potatoes in the frost, which can lead to the reduced storage success rate. It would help if you also stopped watering the potato vine once it starts showing signs of withering. This lets the potato become firmer and the skin to harden.
5. Cleaning the Potatoes
This step is universal, whether you choose to store it for long or use it soon. Avoid washing the potatoes if you wish to store it. Potatoes for kitchen use can be washed and then stored. Use a soft brush and gently remove the soil. Leaving the potatoes on the ground for some time would let the potato skin dry, which makes the sand from the skin easier to remove.
Do not scrub too hard, or it can create soft spots on the tuber, reducing the shelf life. Remember that before you cure the potatoes, the skin remains tender, and you do not want to cause bruises, which can lead to rotting sooner than expected.
6. Curing Potatoes
If you have noticed freshly harvested potatoes, they are firm on the inside, but the skin feels supple. This is natural when they are under the soil. The curing process is what makes the skin tough and suitable for storage. It is essential to cure the potatoes in an optimal condition if you wish to extend the duration for which the potatoes store well.
The ideal temperature for curing is in the range 45℉ to 60℉. It should also be a humid storage space where you leave the potatoes undisturbed for at least 2 weeks. After this, you should notice a significant change in the texture of the skin. If there are superficial cuts that occur during harvest or cleaning, they heal during this curing period. If you find deep cuts and tender spots after the curing period, separate those potatoes and do not put them in the batch that you would be storing for planting. Even the shriveled ones after this period are not fit for storage.
To retain a little moisture, line the storage bins with newspapers. Avoid stacking too many layers vertically to avoid damaging the potatoes. You can line the top with a napkin to block the penetration of light.
7. Picking A Spot for Storage
Potatoes lose their rich taste when you let them stay below 45℉. They also might turn mushy if you pick them from damp soil or leave them out in the garden during the winter. Picking a ventilated yet dark storage corner for the potatoes is the primary step essential to reduce the chances of rot.
They are best stored in separate bins or crates away from other fruits and vegetables to prevent them from sprouting. You do not want the potatoes to lose their moisture content, whether it is for cooking or for winter storage that you plan. Therefore maintaining at least 95% humidity levels is the trick that keeps the potatoes fresh and healthy. Unless there are sprouts that you wish to remove, you should leave the potatoes in their dark corner till you use them.
8. Storing Potatoes for Cooking
To keep potatoes fresh, store them in mesh bags. This can ensure ventilation and preserve the taste. Refrigerator storage is not ideal for potatoes as the humidity levels are low in the fridge.
If you consume potatoes within a few days after picking them, they taste the best. Some stored potatoes tend to taste a little sweet and might need reconditioning for restoring the taste. This is by letting the potatoes rest for a few days away from the cold storage space.
9. Storing Potatoes for The Next Season
The real deal is to know where and how to store potatoes to keep them fresh and healthy for planting them for the upcoming season. Have you noticed how some people store them along with shredded paper? This is an optimal condition for the winter storage of the maincrop. It helps retain the texture of the potatoes and maintain humidity levels without letting the potatoes go soft. This also helps prevent the drying of the potatoes that can make them appear shrivelled and unhealthy.
Higher humidity levels and lower temperatures away from freezing temperatures are the best conditions for potato storage as long as you can retain steady humidity levels in the range 80-90% and keep the temperatures between 45℉-50℉ and do not let it drop below this. Keep checking your potatoes and separate any soft and rotten ones. Remove sprouts if you store them for a long time. When done right, these potatoes can stay fresh and ready for planting for as long as 9 months. Check the storage life of the potato variety to know how long it can remain good.
10. The Need for A Dark Storage Spot
Keep potatoes in the dark corner of the kitchen, whether you plan to keep it aside for cooking or long storage. Potatoes do not do well when exposed to sunlight. This can lead to solanine build-up, which shows in the form of green spots in the potatoes. These are not just bitter tasting spots but are also not good for your health. Store the potatoes away from light and check for green spots before using them. If there are green spots already present, chop them off to avoid any illnesses caused by consuming them.
Whether you are a new gardener or an experienced gardener, doubts about harvesting and storage are prone to occur. You are not alone. After all, each crop behaves differently. It is alright to be full of questions when you pick a new crop to plant in your garden. Be assured that potatoes can be forgiving crops. For the new gardeners who need a push to continue big in vegetable crops, potatoes can be good starters.
Knowing how to harvest, when to harvest, and how to store potatoes from the garden is all the theoretical knowledge you need to get started. With this information and with your practical observation, you can soon become a proud potato farmer in 2 or 3 seasons. We hope that our potato storage tips answered most of your doubts. Got some extra tips you learned from experience that you would like to share with the world, do let us know in the comments.