Storing Potatoes for Winter

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I don’t know about your family, but mine loves potatoes any way you cook them. But storing potatoes for winter can be a challenge if you don’t own a root cellar.

Today, we will talk about the best way to store fresh potatoes. No matter if you grow them yourself or get them from the local farmers market.

My family has grown potatoes for years. And I can remember as a kid being sent down to the storm cellar to bring up potatoes for mama to fry for supper.

big bucket of red potatoes freshly dug and ready to store for winter

They would be laid out, in a single layer, on thick cardboard laying across old rusty metal box springs being held up off the concrete floor on cinder blocks. I remember the cellar being really creepy and damp, but perfect storing potatoes.

Now days, not many families have root cellars or even basements so we have to get a bit creative when storing potatoes for winter at home.

Storing Potatoes for Winter

This year was a record potato harvest for us. 181 lbs. of freshly dug potatoes and I found myself scurrying around to find enough space to store them over the winter.

wheelbarrow full of fresh dug potatoes for storing for winter at home.

The best place, of course, is in an area with a temperature of about 45°f that is dark and humid. But lets be real, how many of us really have this ideal area? You may and if you do, this is wonderful! But if you are like most of us, this area is only a dream.

Best Varieties Of Potatoes For Storing

There are hundreds of varieties of potatoes and they each have their storage limits. Some are early season and then others are late. To find what grows best in your region I would recommend you talk with your local extension agent.

Some common white potatoes for storing are Superior, Yukon Gold and Kennebec.

Red potatoes are Adirondack Red, Red Pontiac, Dark Red Norland and the Red Gold. I grow the Kennebec and the Red Pontiac.

TIP: Red potatoes do not store as long as white or gold potatoes. So keep this in mind when growing them.

How To Dry And Cure Potatoes Before Storing

Before fresh harvested potatoes are stored, they should be cured. This allows the soil to dry as well as the skins to harden to extend storage life. So just how do you cure potatoes?

Once they are carefully dug, leave them laying for about an hour to allow the soil to dry. Then gently brush off loose soil with hands or a soft brush but resist the temptation to wash them. They should be nice dry before going into storage.

Look for soft spots or cuts from shovel or garden tool used and keep those separate from the others.

pile of freshly dug potatoes with problems that will not store for winter

TIP: Voles and moles are common in the garden. So also keep an eye out for potatoes that have been chewed or gnawed on. Keep these separate as well.

Potatoes with chew marks or injury will need to be used first, they will not store long term. Or even better, you can even can them and store them in the pantry on your canning shelves. And of course, you can always make and freeze hash browns for the freezer too.

And then put them in a dark area to cure for a couple of weeks to allow the skins to continue to harden. This will prolong their storage life.

Potential Problems With Storage

Light is the enemy to stored potatoes! It causes a couple different problems.

  1. Light causes potatoes to grow. The eyes will sprout and since they are not in healthy garden soil, for nutrition to grow, they will shrivel up. Of course in the spring, sprouted potatoes are great because they can be planted to grow more.
  2. Light also causes potatoes to turn green and this can potentially cause nausea when they are eaten. The green is a mild toxic alkaloid called Solanine. This is a natural defense for potatoes against insects, disease and rodents. But if eaten in large quantities, it can cause nausea. So if you see green on a potato, peel it away before eating.

Best Way To Store Without A Root Cellar

As I’ve already mentioned, potatoes best stored in a cool, damp, dark location laid out in a single layer. But I realize not many of us have this area.

So the next best thing is inside cardboard boxes with holes drilled in them to allow for good ventilation. I use copy paper boxes gotten from my daughter’s work. They are the perfect size and come with great lids.

But whatever type of cardboard box you use, don’t forget to drill holes in the sides for adequate ventilation. On average, I put 3 holes on each side of the box for a total of six holes per box. The holes are about 1 inch in diameter.

Next, inside each box, layer potatoes with shredded paper. This is a great way to recycle junk mail and sale flyers that would normally be tossed in the trash. If you don’t have enough paper to shred, common newspapers folded in thick layers (6-7 sheets) will work well too.

Just lay potatoes in the bottom of the box, cover with shredded paper or newspaper, add another single layer of potatoes, more paper……

fresh dug potatoes stored in a cardboard box filled with shredded paper

Then store boxes in a closet or area of the house that doesn’t get much light or preferably is dark. I store boxes in the spare bedroom closet since the door is not opened often.

You will also want to check them often for a rotten smell. If one begins to rot, a gas is released and it will cause others to rot. I’m in there getting potatoes pretty often for cooking, so I make it a habit to check all the boxes each time.

A garage will work well too as long as it does not freeze inside during the winter. Potatoes store best below 50°F so this why you’ll want to choose the coolest, darkest location in your house you can.

How Long Do Stored Potatoes Last?

The length of time will depend on the temperature and the humidity of where they are stored. My potatoes will store for about 6 months at a time. But they normally don’t last this long since they are a staple at our house and I cook them often.

And some of those that do sprout, I move them to a separate box and save to plant the next season.

More Crops To Grow For Storing:

potatoes in wheelbarrow ready to store for winter

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5 thoughts on “Storing Potatoes for Winter”

  1. I store mine in a plastic tote with a lid I put some insulation in the tote first and then bags of potatoes that are on sale this time of year and store in the shed. They last for months. Cold and dark there this time of year.

  2. Another thing. My soil when I leave it to dry on the potatoes doesn’t just brush off. It becomes hard as a rock and the then it makes it really hard to peel. Once dried it won’t wash off unless you soak them for about an hour or sometimes more.. so I end up having to wash them before storing them. Should I leave them to dry even longer then.? Any other hints?

    1. Hi Susanne,

      For the soil issue. Washing them before storage largely decreases their storage time. When you dig them in the garden, use your hands and rub away the thick soil, but don’t wash them. Leave them to lay in the hot sun for a few hours until the soil that remains on them is dried. Then take them inside to your box.
      In the box, put them in single layers separated by layers of newspaper or other papers. I shred junk mail and other papers to make shredded paper. Try to make sure they are not touching. And then when you go to use them, run them under cold water and scrub with a vegetable brush, I have this one, to remove the dirt. The cool basement is a great place to keep them. I hope this helps.

      Dianne

  3. Hi Diane,
    I have a cold storage area in my basement but I have a problem with mice in the winter so they end up getting into the potatoes so my hubby built me a wooden box in the basement to store them in. It keeps them out but I only drilled little holes so I’m finding that they don’t last very long. I’m thinking not enough ventilation but I’m worried if I drill bigger holes that they will be able to get into the box. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Susanne,

      I hate mice, they are just nasty, but a couple of ideas for them. First, you could make larger holes in the box to give them more ventilation and then wrap the box with a 1/4in hardware cloth. This can be purchased at your local Tractor Supply or farm store or ordered from Amazon as well. It comes in many widths and lengths, but make sure it is a 1/4″ cloth. Mice can get into any space that is 1/2′, so it needs to be smaller. The second idea is to use traps, but this, of course, is not foolproof. And then you can always use poison. I’m not a fan of using poison, but when it comes to mice and rats, it becomes necessary. We’ve had to go the poison route with rats in our chicken coop. Just make sure that pets and animals cannot get to the poison. All this said, my favorite idea is to wrap the box in hardware cloth.

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