10/8/2021

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These days potato storage is a hot topic in conversations among vegetable gardeners, coming soon after “What kind of fertilizer do you use?” As with the answer to the fertilizer question, potato storage quickly gets into complicated territory. The ideal conditions for stored potatoes mimic conditions underground – temperatures from 45 to 55°F (7 to 13°C), with high humidity and some circulation of air. These cave-like conditions are not common in comfortable homes.

The refrigerator is out, because temperatures below 40°F (4°C) trigger the conversion of starches to sugars in the stored spuds, which makes them darken when cooked. Even worse, what old timers called “sugared potatoes” form carcinogenic compounds when cooked at high temperatures. Let’s not go there.

Instead, let’s assume that your potatoes have been gently harvested and cured, and now you need a place to put them that’s cool, dark, and safe from critters. After reading through the ideas below, you may find that you have more potato storage options than you think.

A peat free compost is best, potatoes prefer the more open stucture and it is free draining. Ronald Maxwell on Tuesday 5 September 2017 'Further to the above, this was the yield from the 7 bags I harvested. When cool enough to handle, cut each potato lengthwise in half. Scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4-in.-thick shells. In a small bowl, mash pulp with mayonnaise, adding cheese, bacon, tomatoes, green onion, salt and pepper.

Root Cellars and Basements

If you have a root cellar or unheated basement, storing potatoes is easy because earthen walls stabilize temperatures in exactly the range potatoes prefer. Underground spaces also tend to be quite humid, a mixed blessing for stored potatoes. Damp air that doesn’t move can contribute to yucky molds, but a small fan that keeps the air moving can prevent this problem.

Potato storage containers can range from cardboard boxes to special potato baskets lined with burlap. Containers that permit some air movement are ideal, for example baskets or crates with open slats. For storing small amounts of potatoes in the basement, one of my favorite containers is a small laundry basket lined with newspapers, topped with a heavy towel to exclude light. I also like using an old wood crate lined with straw, with more straw added between layers of potatoes. Mice like it, too so I must be careful.

A small chest of drawers kept in the basement is great for potatoes, too, though the drawers must be kept cracked open to admit fresh air.

Indoor Potato Storage

When I lived in a warm climate where basements were rare, stored potatoes did best indoors, where it was air conditioned, at least until the weather got cold enough to use an unheated garage. I once used the floor of the coat closet, which stayed cool because it was on the house’s shady north side. There I copied a friend’s system, in which she sorted her potatoes into paper bags by type and size, arranged the bags in plastic milk crates, and covered them with a cloth.

In another house, the bedroom was the coolest room, so I started storing potatoes in boxes or bins under the bed. I still do this when summer weather makes the basement stuffy and hot. Instead of closing up the boxes or bins, I cover the potatoes with a thick towel, which provides them with a pleasing air supply. A neighbor is more organized. She places her ‘Yukon Golds’ and other smallish potatoes in egg cartons before hiding them under her bed.

In warm climates without dependable air conditioning like rural Kenya, packing potatoes in damp sawdust has been found to extend their storage life. In Alaska, where the challenges are keeping stored potatoes from freezing or being discovered by bears, enterprising homesteaders might dig a “cold hole” for food storage, a refinement of an older practice of using a deep cave or stone-lined water well to store potatoes and other root crops.

I have often used deep holes dug in the garden for temporary potato storage, but it is not a long-term solution because the potatoes tend to develop skin issues that are rare when potatoes are kept in dry storage. I tried storing potatoes in a buried garbage can, which should have worked but did not. The potatoes inside stayed too damp and went gooey, which could have been due to many factors, including my own mistakes.

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Specialized Refrigeration

The best plug-in device for maintaining the ideal potato storage temperature of 45°F (7°C) is a beverage cooler, of which there are several small models that might be useful if you are critically low on cold storage space. You also can use a wine cooler set at its lowest setting, which is usually around 52°F (11°C).

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These specialty coolers can extend the storage life of potatoes, or you can use them for carrots, beets, apples, or pears. With consumption of sugary drinks on the decline, maybe we should start calling them produce coolers.

Plants Related to this Article

Potatoes (Early) Grow Guide

Potatoes are one of the most commonly consumed vegetables with over a billion people eating them, and for good reason. They are extremely versatile and can be prepared in many different ways – boiled, steamed, baked, fried and roasted. If you are a fan of potatoes you have probably added them to salads and soups or mashed them up and eaten them as a side.

According to the International Potato Center, there are more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes, most of which are found in the Andes, from which they originate. Of course the varieties sold throughout the United States and other countries are much lower, however there are still more than 100 varieties consumed. These varieties are grouped into various categories including russet, white, red, yellow, purple, blue, fingering and petite.

Nutritional information

The table below contains nutritional information for 100 g of different potato varieties.

White PotatoRusset PotatoRed PotatoPurple Potato
Calories69797182
Protein (g)1.72.11.92
Carbohydrate (g)16181618
Dietary fiber (g)2.41.31.71.6
Sugar (g)1.20.61.30.5
Fat (g)0.10.10.10.1

As you can see, the 4 different types of potato above are very similar nutritionally. Most potatoes mainly contain carbohydrate with a little bit of protein and almost no fat.

So are potatoes healthy?

There are conflicting thoughts and studies as to how healthy potatoes really are. For example, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, potatoes appear to be a culprit for diabetes and weight gain. The main reason for this is because potatoes have a high glycemic index (GI) and high glycemic load (GL).

This means that consuming them causes a large spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, followed by a quick drop. According to the research, potatoes can be as bad as a can of Coca Cola, with the rapid rise and fall in blood sugar leaving people feeling hungry and causing them to overeat.

It also appears that the way in which potatoes are prepared affects their GL. For example boiled red potatoes have a GL of 89 whereas boiled red potatoes that are refrigerated and consumed cold have a GL of 56. That is a big difference! Additionally, when potatoes are eaten with other foods, the GI changes.

It is true that potatoes do have a large effect on blood sugar levels, however there is more to the story than that. Potatoes are also very nutritious and bring with them a number of health benefits. They are rich in potassium, magnesium, iron and vitamin C. All of these vitamins and minerals are important for your health.

Potassium plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and potatoes could help lower blood pressure in obese or overweight people. Additionally, the fiber found in potatoes could lower cholesterol levels by a small amount.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is useful to the body for boosting immune system function, treating allergies such as eczema, healing wounds and maintaining healthy gums. It is also important for great skin. A medium potato contains roughly 70% of your daily requirement of vitamin C!

The high fiber content found in potatoes means eating them helps keep you regular and maintains bowel health, thereby reducing your chances of suffering from constipation. Fiber is also beneficial for heart health.

The important thing to note about consuming potatoes is portion control and preparation method. Like with other things in life, too much of anything is bad for you and the same goes for potatoes. Since they are a carbohydrate rich food, they should be eaten together with a protein source such as chicken or fish – hence the saying “meat and potatoes” – and in moderation. On the plate, potatoes should be considered as a grain rather than a vegetable and should not be eaten on their own but with other vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.

Also rather than deep frying them, steam or boil them as this is a much healthier way of eating them. If you are going to mash them, reduce the amount of butter and cream you add as both are rich in calories.

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One thing to note is that even if they are prepared in a healthy way, potatoes might not be suitable for people who are obese or suffer from diabetes. If you are concerned about eating them, speak to your doctor before doing so.

Which type of potato is the healthiest?

All potatoes contain similar amounts of calories, carbohydrate, protein and fat per 100 g, with carbohydrate content being the highest. So doesn’t that mean that all potatoes are equal in terms of how healthy they are?

Not quite. The colour of the potato is important as well. Yellow and purple potatoes for example are rich in carotenoids and flavonoids.

Carotenoids are abundant in carrots, apricots and squash but are also found in certain types of potatoes. They play a vital role in our health, helping to fight off cancer and decreasing the risk of eye disease.

Flavonoids found in blue and purple potatoes are antioxidants, helping to destroy free radicals, preventing coronary heart disease and reducing inflammation.

This study found that consuming 6 – 8 small microwaved purple potatoes lead to an increase in blood plasma antioxidant capacity and also lowered blood pressure in overweight participants. Another study found that fresh purple potatoes were more effective at suppressing the proliferation of colon cancer cells compared to white and yellow fleshed potatoes. And this study found that eating purple potatoes was linked with lower inflammation in men, compared to white potatoes.

So if you are going to eat potatoes, eat ones with coloured skin and flesh over white ones, to gain maximum health benefits. Additionally, don’t throw away the skins, they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

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When choosing your potatoes, go for fresh and organic whenever possible. They will be more expensive, but will contain lower amounts of pesticides & other agricultural chemicals and be richer in beneficial compounds.

What about sweet potatoes?

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Even though sweet potatoes have potato in their name, they are not really potatoes in the normal sense but are distantly related. Potatoes belong to the Solanaceae family whereas sweet potatoes belong to the Convolvulaceae family. Non the less, for this article we will consider them to be potatoes and speak about them briefly.

Sweet potatoes in general are lower in calories, protein and carbohydrate but higher in fiber, when compared to regular potatoes. They also contain more sugar, giving them their sweet taste.

Like potatoes, sweet potatoes come in a range of colours including white, orange, red and purple. Due to commercial breeding however, only certain types of sweet potato may be available at your local supermarket.

So should you eat regular potatoes or sweet potatoes? We recommend you eat both varieties, in both cases opting for varieties that have coloured skin and flesh.

Conclusion

There are many different varieties of potatoes however those with coloured skin & flesh and in particular purple ones seem to be the most nutritious. Your best option when eating potatoes would be to boil, bake or steam them rather than deep frying, and you should eat them with other foods such as chicken or fish which are sources of lean protein. If you are obese or diabetic, speak to your doctor before adding potatoes to your diet.

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