Curing potatoes before winter storage

Curing potatoes before winter storage is an important process that will help assure longer storing times for your potato crop.Curing Potatoes #2

Potatoes are a super important garden crop around our place. They provide us with a fresh vegetable source for a big part of the winter months. We store our potatoes for the winter in a makeshift root cellar that we put together in a window well on the east side of our house. This root cellar provides a nice cool spot for our potatoes to sit in all winter. But before we put them away for the winter, curing potatoes for a week or so first is very important.

How do you cure potatoes?

Curing potatoes is really pretty easy. You simply spread your potatoes out on some surface for about a week to 10 days. We usually just spread our potatoes out on a big table in our garage. After they have sat for about 5 days I go out and turn them so that both sides of the potato dry well. There are a few things that are important to remember when you are curing potatoes:

Air flow is important

Try to lay the potatoes out flat in one layer, don’t pile them on top of each other, give them a little room to breath.

The cooler the better

Ideal temperatures for curing potatoes would be 65 or below, in the fall that is often pretty hard to accomplish. But do your best to let them sit somewhere as cool as possible.

Some where dark is essential!

Light especially direct sunlight is the enemy of potatoes. Light causes the skins of your potatoes to turn green. Green skins on potatoes taste terrible and are mildly poisonous. It’s important while curing potatoes to do it somewhere as dark as possible. A little light for a few days isn’t going to ruin your potatoes, but it is very important that you keep them out of direct sunlight and as dark as possible. So we like a nice dark garage with any windows covered.

Curing Potatoes 3

I also like to cover the potatoes while they are curing with a light blanket or in this case a piece of fabric row cover.  This helps keep the potatoes in the dark, to keep them from going green.
Why is it so important to cure your potatoes before storing them?

Curing potatoes accomplishes several things

Hardening skins

The first and most important thing is, curing potatoes for about 10 days allows the skins of the potatoes to harden or toughen. This hardened skin will help the potatoes store for months!

Dries off all wet spots

Moisture is the enemy of any long storing food. Allowing your potatoes to sit out for 10 days assures that all of the potatoes are dry before you put them away.

Curing allows damaged spots to heal

Potatoes have the amazing ability to heal damaged spots. Much of the minor damage done to the skins of potatoes while harvesting will heal if the potatoes are left out and exposed to the open air for 10 days. This assures that those damaged spots don’t become “bad” spots that will end up rotting.

Curing potatoes forces you to handle your potatoes

Having to set all the potatoes out on a table, turn them, and eventually clean them off, forces you to handle all of your potatoes. This way you are able to inspect them for rotten spots or damage that may become future rottenness. You can then pull these bad potatoes out and keep them from being placed in with the good potatoes where the rot might spread.

Bad potatoes show up quickly

Another nice benefit of curing is that bad potatoes show up quickly. You are able to spot rotten spots or even softer potatoes that just aren’t going to store long.

Allows you to sort by size (and type)

Setting all these potatoes out also allows you to sort them by size and variety. Some varieties of potatoes store longer than others. Russets potatoes last longer in storage than reds so if they are sorted by type you can use the shorter storing types first.

Curing Potatoes 2

It is also super handy to sort by size. I sort by small, medium and large. Small potatoes are a pain to peel and are better used for roasting and in soups where the peels can be left on. Medium potatoes are perfect for casseroles and for mashing. Larger potatoes are the best for baking. By having them sorted by size it makes them easier to use during the winter.

I’ve also found that having all the smaller potatoes in one spot makes us see them and think about using them, because they always seem to be the ones we put off using.

Putting your potatoes away in storage

Once your potatoes have sat for about 10 days take a little time to inspect and do a rough clean of your potatoes. I handle each and every one of my potatoes. Use a pair of gloves and handle each one. ┬áRub off as much of the left over dirt as you can (being careful not to damage the skins). This will make them easier to clean in the sink when it’s time to cook them.

I also look for soft spots, unhealed damage and rottenness. Any potatoes with these types of problems I bring inside and store in the fridge until they can be used up. Also look for potatoes that are overall soft, these too won’t store as long so I also pull them out to be used up quickly.

I’m planning a separate post on storing potatoes. (When that post is live you will find it here). When storing keep in mind that potatoes need to be stored somewhere dark, dry and very cool! That is why root cellars are so ideal for long term storage of potatoes.

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Curing Potatoes #3

 

15 Comments

  1. Terry September 25, 2016 6:14 am Reply

    Thanks for the info, I want to do potatoes next year and this will certainly help. I never knew you had to dry them. Good tip for sorting by size too

    http://countryladyquilt.blogspot.com

  2. R.Walker March 22, 2017 7:11 pm Reply

    You dont say how long the stored potatoes will be good for.

    • Mr. Stoney March 22, 2017 9:31 pm Reply

      It’s too hard for me to predict. It really all depends on the conditions they are stored in and also the variety of potato. Some types last longer than others. When properly cured and stored we have had potatoes last until the end of March, so roughly 6 months.

  3. Pokerella May 6, 2017 8:44 pm Reply

    I get my potatoes from the store,they are wrapped in a plastic bag.Should I also cure them as they are moist in the bag?

    • Mr. Stoney May 6, 2017 10:30 pm Reply

      First off, you need to grow some of your own! They are SO MUCH better tasting!! To answer your question, no those potatoes were cured by the grower and also likely treated with a gas to inhibit sprouting. But if they are moist then I would set them out somewhere dark for a day just so they dry off and don’t mold. Also take them out of the bag and store them loose in something that has better air circulation than a plastic bag.

  4. Mary Widdowson September 25, 2017 2:00 pm Reply

    Is there any way to fix a potato that is green on one side?

    • Mr. Stoney September 25, 2017 2:05 pm Reply

      Nope, once it’s green it’s going to stay green. We just cut off the green part and eat the rest.

  5. Paul September 28, 2017 7:30 am Reply

    Thank you for the info. I did not know the green spots on potatoes are mildly poisonous. Unfortunately for me I cannot have a garden so I purchase my food from a grocery store. I assume the gas they use to inhibit root growth on potatoes is harmess. Do you know what this gas is? Thank you, Paul

    • Mr. Stoney September 28, 2017 7:46 am Reply

      Paul, I don’t know a ton about the gas used, but there are health concerns about the most commonly used gas, and it is banned in some countries. I did find this article that may help answer your questions the gas is CIPC and this article is about some alternatives:
      http://www.potatogrower.com/2013/08/using-ethylene

  6. Connie September 28, 2017 9:36 am Reply

    Could you tell me more about storing potatoes in window wells? Are they covered? What is the temperature? What can I do to store potatoes in my window wells?

  7. Joyce September 28, 2017 9:38 am Reply

    This is such an excellent article! I wish I had known these things along time ago! Thank you so much for your post.

  8. Alice September 30, 2017 8:37 pm Reply

    Thank you for this helpful, practical information about potatoes. Can I save some of my potatoes and use as seeds to begin growing more potatoes?

    • Mr. Stoney September 30, 2017 9:06 pm Reply

      Alice, yes you can! If you want to do that then you really need to make sure you keep the temperature down around 45 for storage. That way they will last long enough.

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