by Tammy Taylor
Several weeks back a friend & I were talking about gardening. Her family had a huge garden when she was growing up and they relied on it to keep them all fed. But because she felt it was drudgery back then, she doesn’t care to garden much these days. She was quizzing me on the different things I like to plant in my garden and I rattled off all the faves: Tomatoes, garlic, onion, bell peppers, jalapenos, cantaloupe, squash, green beans, etc.
She asked if I ever planted potatoes and I told her that in the past I’d planted them, but I could never successfully store them long term whether garden potatoes or store-bought. I know that freshly-harvested potatoes have to be cured but even when properly curing them, they would sprout within a short time. She was surprised that I had any trouble keeping them long term and told me that they just used to store their potatoes on the ground in the barn and they lasted all season. I was intrigued…
I asked her if they lost many of their barn-stored potatoes to critters, but she said they never had a problem. I asked if they stored the potatoes underground? In loose hay? On cardboard? In baskets? She said they just laid a piece of heavy paper or cardboard right on the dirt floor & piled the potatoes on it – nothing else was done. When they wanted potatoes for supper they’d run to the barn & gather a few – they never had problems with sprouting or potato-stealing animals and their potatoes lasted all season long.
Now usually when I have potatoes I follow all the traditional wisdom – store in a dark, cool, dry place with plenty of air circulation, away from onions or apples. I have an airy basket in my walk-in pantry that I always use to store my potatoes but still in no time they begin sprouting. But now armed with new ideas, I decided to conduct an experiment. I had just purchased a small bag of potatoes so I took half of them & stored them in a cardboard box in our underground storm shelter where temps should stay cool but not too cold, and where it’s good & dark.
I took some of the rest and stored them on a sheet of newspaper laid on the dirt floor in an area of the barn where the cattle don’t have access. Then I waited…
Six weeks later I went out to check on things. The potatoes in the storm shelter were still firm but starting to wrinkle, but at least there wasn’t much sprouting going on. Thankfully the temps underground stay more moderated because since I stored them down there we’ve had some really cold weather.
The potatoes in the barn were, well, GONE. As I had suspected, some critter has been feasting on the all-you-can-eat buffet that I’ve apparently provided him.
My guess is this is the potato-stealing thief’s address…
So, although the potatoes remained pretty sprout free in the storm shelter, they wrinkled more than I was expecting. I’ve heard that you can store potatoes for months on end if you do it right. I wish I knew the secret! C’mon y’all, hook a sistah up – I need some advice! How do you store your potatoes for the long term to keep them both firm and sprout free?
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