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Storing Potatoes Long Term Without a Root Cellar

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Potatoes are a fantastic self sufficient crop to grow in the home garden. They’re versatile and until it freezes, you can simply harvest them as needed. But, once the cold weather hits and freezing temperatures threaten, you’ll have to dig them up. Successfully storing potatoes all winter is fairly easy as long as you follow a few simple tips.

To store potatoes for the year, you’ll want to properly cure them and then keep them at the correct temperature and keep moisture levels down. All things that are plentiful in a root cellar, but a lot of us don’t have access to one. Thankfully, you can keep your potatoes without one.

How to Cure & Sort Fresh Potatoes

Not all potatoes are suitable for long term storage, but most will keep for some time. Russets and other thick skinned potatoes store for very long periods where thinner skinned potato varieties don’t store as long. If you’re growing a variety of types, plan to use the thinner skinned potatoes first, saving your thicker skinned russet types for later in the winter.

Step 1: If you’re growing your own crop, start significantly reducing the water about 2 weeks prior to harvest. Let the plant die back completely before harvesting.

Step 2: Rub away the dirt, but do not wash them. Washing them will increase moisture too much to properly cure and store the vegetable.

Step 3: Lay the potatoes out in a cool dark place on newspaper or similar material, making sure they don’t touch eachother, for about 10 days to cure them. Humidity levels can be high (up to 90%) but keep temperatures around 60°F.

Step 4: After they’ve cured, check them all for storage suitability. Only perfect potatoes can be stored long term. Any potatoes that have soft spots, mold, green ends, open cuts, or pest damage cannot be stored.

How to Store Potatoes Long Term

Layering your stored potatoes with straw or shredded paper can increase storage life.

You’ll want to use a well-ventilated container to store potatoes in long term. This can be a crate, a cardboard box with ventilation holes, a basket, or even paper sacks. Avoid plastic bags as these draw moisture.

You can allow the potatoes to touch, but they typically store best if you layer the storage container with shredded paper or straw.

Potatoes will need stored in a cool, dark place where temperatures will not rise above 55°F and won’t fall below freezing. They will store the longest kept in temperatures of roughly 35-40°F. While some folks recommend storing in a refrigerator, this isn’t advisable as it will cause the skins to shrivel due to the dry air inside the appliance.

Freezing temperatures will cause the tubers to split and warmer temperatures will cause them to go bad much more quickly. A basement, crawl space, or garage works well for those of us without a root cellar.

Cover the container you’re storing them in so light can’t get through. If you’re using something solid like a cardboard box or a paper bag, be sure you cut a few ventilation holes in it.

Check on your potatoes every couple of weeks to make sure nothing is sprouting or going soft. If it is, remove it immediately. A rotten potato can ruin the entire container of stored tubers.

Additional Storage Tips

Do not wash potatoes you plan to store, simply brush off excess dirt and wash when ready to use.

When stored correctly, storage types like russets will store up to 8 months. But, sometimes things go wrong. Here’s a few tips to improve your success.

  • Do not store your potatoes near apples or other fresh fruit. Fresh fruit lets off ethylene gasses that cause the potatoes to sprout and quickly spoil.
  • Do not store your potatoes near onions. I know… what’s with the combo storage bins?? Unfortunately each releases gasses that ripen the other.
  • Do not wash the potatoes until you are ready to use them.
  • Don’t allow much light exposure, as this causes green skin. This green skin not only tastes bitter, it’s toxic. If you have green parts, remove them before cooking.
  • Remove sprouts as you see them unless you’re planning to use the potato as a seed potato.
  • You can bring potatoes out of storage a few days prior to cooking to allow the sugars that develop from storage to convert back to starch to improve flavor.

Storing potatoes long term without a root cellar isn’t difficult, but it can be a learning curve to find a space that is the right temperature to keep them in. If you have access to a basement, you’re lucky. If not, we have successfully kept vegetables in our garage for several years. Just wait to dig them until temperatures begin to dip.

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T West

Monday 6th of September 2021

Your article mentions a crawl space as a possible solution so that gives me some hope. There is the occasional mouse down there... if that is a problem please share any suggestions while still allowing ventilation. My wife suggested it may be damp under there so any thoughts on that as well are appreciated - thank you

Danielle McCoy

Monday 20th of September 2021

If you have mice, it's probably not the best place. Do you have a garage? You can keep them there. Some folks simply keep them in a rarely used closet or cupboard in the house with good results.

Barbara J Lopez

Thursday 12th of August 2021

Love your sage advice. Can you include a printer friendly version button? I am finding I want to save many of these articles.

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