By Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD
Health, Home & Family Development Program
UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Juneau Office
They live. They breathe. And because they’re 80 percent water, potato tubers thrive in humid locations. In moist Southeast Alaska, where are the best spots in your home to store your potatoes?
Research by University of Idaho Cooperative Extension Service scientists and College of Southern Idaho students has confirmed that the optimum sites for home-stored potatoes are cool, dark and ventilated rooms, closets, cabinets and garages. In studies conducted in their own residences, the agricultural science students also found that the perforated plastic bags used in many groceries offer the best environment for extending shelf life.
Potatoes stored inside these bags in unheated areas of the students’ homes benefited from a relatively cool average temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit and a relatively high average humidity of 67 percent. They shrank just 0.9 percent — only slightly more than the 0.6 percent weight loss measured in commercially stored potatoes. Potatoes on counter tops, in refrigerators and under the sink fared considerably worse.
If you only buy enough potatoes to eat within a few days, you can store them almost anywhere in your home as long as you keep them out of the light. But if you buy or harvest several pounds, your choice of location can clearly affect the potatoes’ long-term usability. Warm temperatures encourage sprouting and tuber disease, cold temperatures cause spuds to turn brown when fried, exposure to light prompts greening, sealed plastic containers starve tubers of oxygen and dry environments are downright withering.
The researchers recommend storing potatoes in an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage insulated to protect against freezing, or in an extra refrigerator whose temperature can be set a few degrees higher than normal.
Whether you harvested potatoes from your garden or cashed in on a special sale, following these storage guidelines will help maintain a fresh product. And, a note of interest, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service has developed a new DVD on root cellars that will be available soon. You can access UAF Cooperative Extension Service publications at http://www.uaf.edu/ces/pubs/.
Article resource: University of Idaho Cooperative Extension Service, http://info.ag.uidaho.edu/pdf/CIS/CIS1153.pdf (article opens as PDF file).