August 28, 2011

Storing Potatoes

It was about 8 years ago when I first grew potatoes. We had had a garden before that, but the garden consisted of four raised beds that provided only about 6 inches of head-space above near solid clay. Not exactly the best potato growing conditions. Then, when I was pregnant with Jordan, we moved into a newer house with a well groomed yard. And so that first summer I grew potatoes, as well as carrots, another veggies our previous garden boxes had not allowed for.

That fall we had a bumper crop of potatoes and I had no idea how to store them. Fortunately I worked with a guy who had been gardening for the past 20 years and knew everything there was to know about any manner of fruit or vegetable common to the Pacific Northwest. So I asked him in the lunch room how to store our potatoes. I followed his instructions to the "t" and ate delicious potatoes through March. We have been storing potatoes the same every since.

Here are the steps:
1. Dig your potatoes being careful not to slice them with the shovel. I usually dig from the edges and deeply to loosen the soil, then use my hands to find the potatoes. Any that you slice should be kept in the fridge and used first.
2. Brush as much dirt off as possible, but do not wash. Washing add moisture, which can cause mold.
3. Lay newspapers out, two thick, in the garage or basement - anywhere cool and dark. Spread the potatoes out so that they aren't touching. Leave to dry for a day.
4. Put one layer of potatoes in a brown paper bag. Make sure it's just one layer, don't stack them. Close and roll the top down so that it stays closed. Repeat.
5. Place bags side-by-side in a cool, dark, dry location. Make sure the bags are not sitting on concrete, which holds some moisture. Up on a shelf is better. And away from any potential mice - nasty little buggers!
6. When you open a bag, move any potatoes you don't eat into the fridge.

This year's potato crop is pretty small, but a far cry better than last year. Last year we lost all the potatoes, as well as the carrots and yellow beets, to voles. Not a single potato. This spring, I invested in these little sonic inserts that go in the ground and give off a sound that is suppose to repel voles and moles. It must have worked, because although there weren't many potatoes, all were intact.


Judie Morton said...

Thanks for the tips. Is it almost time to harvest potatoes? (I'm near Olympia, so not too far from you, and this is my first year growing potatoes.)

Mindy said...

Depends on when you planted the potatoes. My rule of thumb is when the leaves start to die back it's time to dig. You can always start at one end and see if the first plant has mature potatoes, then decide if it's time to keep going. Good luck :-)

Judie Morton said...

Thanks. I'm checking them tomorrow (the plants are dying, and I don't remember when I planted them). Have a great weekend!