While the rise in the number of people growing their own vegetables is considered to be good for the environment, this practice also has significant health benefits for families.
In fact, households who grow their own fruit and vegetables are thought to consume 40% more of these food items each day. This is particularly beneficial in households with children, who can subsequently learn healthy and sustainable consumption habits over time.
But did you know that potatoes are the nation’s most popular crop among the own-grown community? This is according to scientists from the University of Sheffield, who recently completed the first survey of own-grown fruit and veg production since the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign during World War II.
If you do grow your own raw potatoes, however, you may have some questions about how to store them safely. We’ll answer these below, while also appraising the unique health benefits offered by potatoes.
What Are the Health Benefits of Potatoes?
While potatoes aren’t among the vegetables that are the highest in protein, there are considerable health benefits to consuming them on a regular basis.
Potatoes are certainly a good source of fiber, which plays a pivotal role in helping you to maintain a healthy weight by keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Fiber also helps to prevent (or at least minimize the rise of) heart disease, primarily by keeping your cholesterol and blood sugar levels well regulated.
Studies have also shown that potatoes are packed full of antioxidants, which work in unison to prevent the onset of various diseases over time. This is because they fight free radicals in your body, the latter of which are compounds that can cause harm if their levels become too elevated.
They also include key vitamins that help your body to function at its optimal level for longer, minimizing symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog.
Post-Harvest – The Science (and Journey) of Potatoes
It’s interesting to note that once raw potatoes have been harvested and removed from the ground, they continue to breathe on grocery stores and food cupboards nationwide.
During this time, oxygen from the surrounding environment also combines with the sugar that exists in the patats. This is then respired from the roots as carbon dioxide and water, commencing a slow process of decomposition that ultimately makes the potatoes inedible.
The good news is that storing your potatoes in a cool and dark place can help to decelerate the decomposition process significantly, while safeguarding against sprouting (we’ll touch on this in more detail in the next section).
It may even sweeten this delicious, underground plant over time, creating an even tastier ingredient for the range of dishes that it’s able to contribute to!
How to Store Potatoes – The Key Considerations
Now that you understand a little more about the popularity of this vegetable and the decomposition process post-harvest, the question that remains is how to store potatoes in your home in the most effective way.
We’ve provided some advice below, so that you can make an informed decision and identify the ideal place in your home to safely store your raw potatoes!
#1. Understand the Basics of Potato Storage
As we’ve already touched on, you can optimize the lifespan of potatoes and demonstrably slow down the decomposition process simply by storing potatoes in a cool and dark place.
We recognize that this advice is pretty vague, however, especially as there are other basic rules that need consideration if you’re to keep your potatoes fresh for the optimal length of time.
When we say ‘a cool, dark place’, for example, uncooked potatoes will keep fresh the longest when they’re stored somewhere that has a relatively cold temperature of around 50°F.
At the same time, they should ideally be stored in a location that has a humidity level of between 90% to 95%, as this also helps to slow the process of decomposition. These conditions provide the optimal environment for your raw potatoes and similar root vegetables, especially if you’re unable to grow produce regularly and want to keep your food fresh for an extended period of time.
#2. Keep Them Out of the Sunlight
Of course, the chances are that you won’t have access to such optimized conditions, unless you’re in the unique position of owning an accessible and humidity-controlled root cellar!
However, you should still take steps to identify or create the best possible conditions for storing your uncooked potatoes. You can certainly take steps to ensure that they’re kept out of the sunlight, which will only expedite their decomposition and make them unfit for purpose.
More specifically, sustained sunlight will simply perpetuate the process of photosynthesis, eventually causing your potatoes to turn green, slowly wrinkle and ultimately rot.
So, avoid leaving your potatoes out on the counter-top where possible, even in instances where they’re wrapped in a clear, plastic bag.
You should also avoid refrigerating your potatoes, which typically have lots of starches that can be converted into sugars in especially high temperatures. Obviously, this will make your potatoes much sweeter, while they may even turn a darker shade during cooking.
Ultimately, the best method of storing potatoes is to keep them in a kitchen drawer, cupboard or basket, where they’re kept away from direct sunlight but readily accessible. This way, they should last for a minimum of two weeks, while you can minimize the risk of them being lost forever in some secret, hidden compartment in your kitchen!
#3. Make Sure They Still Have Airflow
Potatoes are often packaged and sold in clear plastic bags, but as we’ve already touched on, this isn’t necessarily the best receptacle when looking to store potatoes.
So, even when you find the ideal storage location in your kitchen or pantry, it’s also important that you transfer your potatoes to a reusable paper or mesh bag.
At the very least, they should be kept in a well-ventilated container, in order to minimize the dampness that naturally occurs as potatoes continue to release trace amounts of carbon dioxide and water in the form of vapour.
If you don’t have such a receptacle to hand and you need to keep your fresh potatoes in the plastic bag that they were sold in, we’d recommend perforating this a few times at the top to break the seal and maintain a steady flow of air to your vegetables.
#4. Remember – Be Careful What Else is Stored Close to Your Potatoes
Regardless of which cold, dark place you choose to store your potatoes, the chances are that they’ll be kept close to other vegetables and food produce.
However, it’s important that you don’t just throw your potatoes into a cupboard next to just anything, as this can cause significant issues in some instances.
For example, did you know that storing your potatoes next to onions, avocados, bananas or apples may encourage your potatoes to sprout prematurely?
In the case of the former, the gases released by onions (particularly ethylene) hasten sprouting at a significant rate, while the additional moisture produced by this root veggie could also cause the surrounding produce to spoil quicker.
So, try to organize your food storage spaces to ensure that all vegetables are separated in the best possible way, while optimizing the flow of air and maintaining optimal conditions.
The Last Word – How to Spot a Rotten Potato
Regardless of the storage space that you have at your disposal or the conditions found in your kitchen, it’s always important to find the optimal storage location for your potatoes and similar vegetables.
So, even if you don’t have ample drawer or cupboard space in which to store potatoes, you should at least try to avoid the warmest spots in the room (especially next to ovens and appliances) while keeping them clear of the sink where excess dampness may occur.
Before we bring this article to a close, we also thought we’d identify some of the key signs that potatoes have begun to decompose. This is important, as you want to avoid holding onto potatoes that have already gone bad and become inedible.
Alongside obvious signs such as mold or excess sprouting, you should also keep your eyes peeled for soft black spots that appear on the skin of the potatoes. These are all telltale signs of decomposition in potatoes and indicative of vegetables that are unfit for consumption, while green potatoes and similar discoloration may also be something to look out for.
You may also want to avoid eating potatoes that are unusually soft or shriveled, especially if they’ve developed excess wrinkles around the skin. While such potatoes are most likely safe to eat, they’ll have an unpleasant texture that will be akin to eating rotten fruit.
The taste may also be affected adversely too, creating an appealing prospect that you should avoid if you can!
So, there you have it; our comprehensive guide to storing potatoes and how you can keep this vegetable fresh for the optimal period of time!
Remember, potatoes are a significant source of fiber and play a key role in healthy weight management for vegetarians and vegans, so keeping them fresh is crucial to a good diet!