Tips To Keep Potatoes in Tip-Top Shape: Buying, Storing, Preparing and Saving Leftovers

We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving and hope you did, too. Now, the holiday season is upon us!

Because so many holiday meals include potatoes—and because our fresh cranberries got all banged up in the bottom of the grocery bag then sticky in the fridge—we thought this might be a great time to go over Storing Spuds, 101.

To keep your spuds in tip-top shape for holiday feasts, just follow these easy-peasy guidelines.

Shopping for Potatoes

Match your potato to cooking method. Are you baking? Buy russet or sweet potatoes. Grilling? Go for whites or yellows. Making a salad? Reds or blues are a great bet.

No matter what kind of potato you plan to take home, select those that are clean, smooth, firm-textured and free from cuts, bruises or discoloration.

Storing for Freshness

Potatoes are happiest in a well-ventilated, sort of chilly place with temps between 45°F and 55°F.

Skip the fridge if you can: colder temperatures convert the starch in potatoes to sugar, resulting in a sweeter taste and maybe some discoloration when cooked.

If you do refrigerate your potatoes, let your spud treasure slowly warm to room temp before cooking. This can help reduce discoloration.

Please don’t stash your potatoes some place that gets HOT: for example, under the sink or next to some huge appliance. And remember: light is enemy number one for potatoes. Store them somewhere dark to keep them fresher longer.

Extend shelf life with perforated plastic bags or paper bags. And, like any fresh produce, wait to wash potatoes until you’re ready to eat ‘em. Prewashing just gets them all damp, which can speed spoilage.

Sprouting or Green Potatoes

A little green is no big whoop—just cut it away before cooking your potato.

Potatoes turn green due to a build-up of a chemical called Solanine. It’s a natural reaction to too much light. Solanine tastes bitter, and if eaten in large quantity can make you sick.

Sprouts just mean your potato is ready to grow. It’s not the end of the world, either. Just cut the area away before cooking. And next time try storing your spuds in a cool, dry, dark location that is well ventilated.

Preparing Potatoes

Gently scrub your spuds with a vegetable brush under cool running water. (Unless they’re PotatOHs, in which case we did that for you, already!).

Cook and eat ‘em with their skin on: it’s more nutritious. But if you must peel, don’t go too deep. Lots of the nutrients are close to the skin.

Sometimes potatoes that are cut and uncooked can oxidize and then look pinkish or brownish. This should not stop your big potato plans because the discoloration should disappear with cooking. You can preserve the color of cut potatoes by keeping them in cold water with a little lemon juice or vinegar. But, to retain vitamins, don’t soak ‘em more than 2 hours.

Saving Leftovers

Wait, what leftovers?

If you ever do have leftover potatoes, that’s probably a record or something. And, so, like with any other leftover foods, pop them in the fridge within two hours of serving to prevent food-borne illnesses.

Then, don’t let them sit there for weeks. Eat them within a few days or toss them out.

Last, but not least, when you freeze potatoes at home, you mess with their structure. They’re 80 percent water and will become watery when reheated.

That about covers it. But if you have more pressing potato questions, post them below. We’ll get back to you ASAP.

  

How we grow our potatoes

Even just ten years ago, most people didn’t think all that much about how the food on our plates got there. Most of us just grabbed a fork and went to town. Times sure have changed, and we think for the better. If you’re reading this blog, you probably want to know more about how a potato is grown. And, although we’ve been working in the fields for many many summers, this is our moment in the sun. Here’s a quick low-down:

1. We use certified seed

Potatoes grow from other potatoes. That is, the part you eat is also the seed. So farmers use potatoes to grow more potatoes. Because potato plants are pretty susceptible, they’re grown from potatoes called certified seed—potatoes guaranteed to be disease-free. Usually, each “seed potato” is cut into smaller pieces and planted. But before we plant, we work on our soil a bit.

2. Preparing the fields

To get the best yield, we spend a lot of time in the early spring plowing the fields, amending the soil, and keeping eye on the temperature. We don’t want to plant if there is danger of a hard frost, which could kill all our seed. But, because potatoes take about 80-100 days to mature, we don’t want to wait too too long because the date of the first fall freeze is a bit of a gamble, too. So it’s kind of like Vegas, baby.

3. Growth Stages

Potatoes grow in 5 phases: (1) sprouts and roots emerge (2) leaves grow and begin photosynthesis (3) the plant flowers and makes new tubers (potatoes) (4) after the soil reaches about 80° F, the plant stops making new potatoes and concentrates on growing each potatoes bigger (at this critical stage, we monitor the temperature, moisture level and nutrient balance of the soil in our fields, all the time). (5) Finally, the green part of the plant dies back, the skin on the potatoes begins to thicken and it’s time to start digging.

4. Harvest

Most commercial potatoes are harvested by a special tractor called—you guessed it—a potato harvester. It has special prongs that scoop up the potatoes and some soil, too. Potatoes are moved along an apron chain conveyer belt up into the harvester, where workers separate out dirt, dried stocks, rocks and other debris. The potatoes move along the harvester, are collected in another big truck, and then driven to a storage facility. To get a better idea, watch this video.

5. Sort and Store

At the storage facility, workers again inspect and sort the crop as it is unloaded. Usually, we’ll store potatoes for a bit to help the skin on the outside to further thicken and better protect the potato. Potatoes should be stored in a dark, well-ventilated area at about 40° F.

6. Packing

After the potatoes have cured a bit, it’s time to ship them out. They’re pulled from storage and taken to a packing facility—sometimes this is done with water, sometimes it’s a job for a truck. Potato processing areas are like big “potato factories” with potatoes being conveyed up, down and all around where workers look over each potato, sort them by size and pack ‘em up. Once they’re boxed, bagged or wrapped, they’re shipped off to grocery stores where savvy buyers everywhere scoop them up and bring them home for dinner.

Growing potatoes is a full-time, year-round job. These are just the nuts and bolts. We hope you enjoyed learning about how we grow potatoes on our farms. If you have more questions, let us know.