Mature Potatoes – Now What?
When potato vines wither and die the potatoes are mature. They won’t grow anymore. Leave them in the ground at least 14 more days to allow time for their skin to thicken. This is the easiest way for the potatoes to cure. It goes a long way towards reducing bruising and rot in storage.
If for some reason you have to take them out of the ground right away you’ll have to go to a bit more trouble: Lay out the blemish free potatoes in a dark place at 50 to 65 degrees F with humidity of 85-95% about 10 to 14 days to give the skins time to harden before storage.
Handling Potatoes at Harvest
Harvest in dry conditions if possible. Let the potatoes air dry for an hour or two after removing from the soil. Just enough so the soil dries and can be gently brushed off using your hand or a soft cloth.
DO NOT WASH the potatoes that you plan to store.
Separate bruised or damaged potatoes. They’re ok for eating, but won’t store.
Long Term Storage
Potatoes can be stored for a week or two at room temperature. But long term storage requires different conditions.
There are about as many ways to approach potato storage as there are gardeners. You can store your potatoes in bins, wood crates, burlap or mesh bags. If you’re fortunate enough to have a cellar — it’ll be the perfect place to keep them.
If you’re to get the long term storage you want, your method of storage should meet the following 4 conditions:
- Be cool (about 40 to 50 degrees F)
- High humidity. (You don’t want a build up of water. That will cause rot. Just high humidity. If too dry potatoes will shrivel.)
- It should allow the potatoes to breath. (For example, burlap bags keep the light out but allow air to circulate in the bag.)
If you can meet these requirements you’ll be able to keep your potatoes for another 3 to 6 months.
Conditions Not Right?
Most modern homes don’t have a suitable place to meet the requirements for long term potato storage.
If that’s the case with you (it is with me) there is something else that works great — especially if you don’t have voles that eat your potatoes.
Leave the Potatoes in the Ground
The earth has almost ideal storage conditions for potatoes. Dark, cool and moist.
I make sure mine stay heavily mulched to keep them cool and dark. My soil has excellent drainage, so I don’t have to worry about rot that would result if the potatoes stayed wet.
The way we enjoy potatoes, mine will probably be long gone before a hard freeze. But if I do have potatoes remaining, I’ll pile on another foot of straw to protect them from frost and freeze. Then, harvest as needed.
With a little planning and care you can enjoy your bounty of potatoes into the fall and winter.
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