5 Steps to Storing Potatoes for Winter

5 Easy Steps to Storing Potatoes | Grow a Good Life
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I have an unheated corner in my basement that is perfect for storing potatoes for winter.

This corner stays dark, cool, and performs like a root cellar. I have added a good-sized shelving area where I store the food preserved during the growing season. The shelves are filling up with baskets of onions, garlic, and canned tomato sauce, jelly, salsa, beans, carrots, grape juice, pickles, and applesauce.

I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment as I look over the jars and baskets of homegrown bounty. Not only because we have this food to feed us but I also feel good knowing exactly where my food comes from and that it was grown with no chemicals.

The Next Harvest to Add to the Shelves is the Storing Potatoes

I harvest fresh potatoes here and there as needed for meals, but the majority of the tubers are left in the ground to mature fully. The potato foliage usually begins dying back in August sending the last of the plants energy beneath the ground to the tubers. I like to wait several weeks or longer after the foliage has died back completely to allow the skins toughen up. This will help protect the tubers from abrasions during harvest.

The big dig of the main crop of storing potatoes is in October before the ground freezes. I watch the weather closely and choose a warm, dry day after a period of little or no rain.

Digging Potatoes for Storing | Grow a Good Life

I dig carefully using a digging fork to loosen the soil and then sift through with my hands to pull out the tubers to avoid damaging them. The potatoes are placed in a garden cart. If the sun is out, I shade the cart because sunlight will cause the potatoes to turn green.

Cart of Storage Potatoes | Grow a Good Life

Occasionally, I will come across a few potatoes damaged by moles or voles, or accidentally stab one with the digging fork. Damaged potatoes should be kept separate from your storing potatoes because they are more likely to rot and possibly infect the rest of the tubers. So place these aside to be trimmed and eaten first.

5 Steps to Storing Potatoes for Winter

1. Find an Area Suitable for Storing Potatoes: Potatoes should be stored in a dark environment at about 45˚F to 50˚F (7˚C to 10˚C). The relative humidity should be around 95% to prevent them from drying out. I store potatoes in an unheated corner of the basement that stays dark, cool, and performs just like a root cellar. If you don’t have a basement, consider some of these other storing potato options at Mother Earth News.

2. Choose Potato Varieties that are Good for Storing: Some potato varieties known for their long term storage capabilities are Yukon Gold, Katahdin, Kennebec, and Yellow Finn. I grow Dark Red Norland, a mid-season variety and Kennebec, a late season variety. Kennebec lasts longer in storage so we try to consume the Dark Red Norland first. If you are purchasing from a farmers market, ask the growers which varieties they recommend for long term storing potatoes.

3. Cure the Potatoes Before Storing: Curing toughens up the potatoes skin and extends the storage life. I cure potatoes in a cool and dark area of the basement by spreading the tubers out into seedling trays lined with newspaper. I cover the trays with a dark towel to eliminate light but allow air to circulate and let them cure for several weeks.

Curing Potatoes for Storing | Grow a Good Life

4. Pack Up the Potatoes for Storing: I store my potatoes in recycled paper boxes nestled in shredded paper recycled from bills and other paperwork. I cut a few holes in the sides of the boxes for air circulation, add a layer of shredded paper, and spread out the potatoes, cover with more shredded paper, and continue until the box is full. As I pack up the storing potatoes, I lightly brush off excess dirt and inspect them carefully. Tubers with broken skin or damage are separated to be used immediately instead of stored. Once the box is full, I place the cover on it, add a label, and store in a cool, dark area.

Storing Potatoes | Grow a Good Life

5. Check on the Stored Potatoes: Every few weeks I look through the boxes to remove any potatoes that may begin to rot. Usually you can tell by the scent if there is one in the box. If you notice a musky, sour dirt smell, you should go through the box to remove the rotten potato before it infects the others.

5 Easy Steps to Storing Potatoes | Grow a Good LifeStoring potatoes this way will help keep them fresh for several months depending on the temperature and humidity. Ours usually last until March before they begin sprouting. Sprouted potatoes can be planted in spring as long as they look healthy and the previous season was disease free.

Additional Tips:

  • Store potatoes separate from onions and fruits. These give off ethylene gas that can cause your potatoes to sprout prematurely.
  • Keep stored potatoes in the dark. Exposure to light will cause a build-up of Solanine, a chemical that causes potatoes to turn green, produces a bitter taste, and if eaten in large quantity can cause illness. Trim off potato skin that has turned green. If the green has penetrated into the potato, throw it away.

Further Reading:
Sourcing Seed Potatoes Locally
Over 6 Different Potato Planting Methods
Planting Potatoes the Grow Biointensive Way
9 Crops to Grow for Food Storage

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28 thoughts on “5 Steps to Storing Potatoes for Winter

    1. Rachel Post author

      Lady Locust, Even if you don’t have a basement you can still store your potatoes in a cool and dark area. Maybe in a garage or closet that is cooler than the rest of the house? The potatoes may not last until March, but they may last a few months before sprouting.

      Reply
  1. Nancy Andres

    Thanks Rachel for sharing about your crop of potatoes and how you plan to store them. This is my first time at the Natural Family Friday Link Up, where I read your blog post. I am so impressed that you have enough potatoes to store.
    Way to go girl! Please check out my blog post on there too. Instead of putting the caption “5 Dynamite Ways to Eat More Calcium Rich Foods Today” it just shows my blog site name obloggernewbie.blogspot.com. Please let me know if you knew these plant-based foods are packed with calcium and which ones are part of your healthy eating plan.

    Reply
  2. organic4greenlivings

    Great post. I know potatoes will rot pretty fast if not stored properly. You have some great tips here so I pinned and twitted. I thought using the shredded paper was a great idea to help keep them dry. Thanks so much for sharing on Real Food Fridays.

    Reply
  3. Thomas

    I will have to bookmark this page. It’s tough finding a proper place to store potatoes, even when you live in an old farmhouse like ours. We have a crawl space underneath our house that probably stays in the low 40’s but the last thing I want is to attract rodents. I’ll have to figure out something.

    Reply
  4. Vickie

    Such good information! I love that you use your shredded paper to store the potatoes – recycling at it’s finest! When we build our new home, we will have an unheated basement. However, we are also planning to build a small root cellar. From what I have been reading, it’s best to store the potatoes in the basement and the onions and fruits in the root cellar, so I will probably be using both the basement and the cellar!

    Reply
  5. Anita

    My mother-in-law would store her potatoes in a small root/storm cellar (NW Okla.). She had plastic trays like they use in stores for bread. She would let the potatoes dry in the shade outside and then put them in the trays (no potatoes on top of each other, just single layers). Then she sprinkled lime on them to keep them dry (the cellar was actually kind of damp down there). They would last for months this way. She always peeled the potatoes so the lime wasn’t an issue.

    Reply
  6. Jennifer A

    Great information! My sweet potato crop was a bust this year, but I’m buying up a bunch while they are on sale now. I’ve been telling my husband for a while I need a root cellar, but I’ll see what I use that’s here. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  7. PintSizeFarm

    I do miss my basement for things like this! It is the perfect temp for storing food. Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop be sure to come back and share another 🙂

    Reply
  8. Nicky

    These are great tips. I don’t have a root cellar but my garage should work well after winter sets in. I grew a small amount of potatoes for the first time this year. Next year, I hope to grow more and this will come in very handy.

    Reply
  9. Deborah Smikle-Davis

    Hi Rachel,
    This takes me back to my grandparents’s stories about storing potatoes for the winter. Thank you so much for sharing this enlightening post “5 Steps to Storing Potatoes for Winter” with us at the Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop. I appreciate it!

    Reply
  10. Kara

    These are excellent tips! I just wish I had a cool, dark place to store mine – that’s difficult in South Texas! Thanks for linking up with Simple Lives Thursday!

    Reply
  11. The Farmers Lamp

    Great tips for storing potatoes. I am in the deep south and we don’t have basements here except for the rare exception of course. We store ours in a middle bedroom that is unheated. We use baskets and crates and they keep until January or February – when we actually have some that long. Thanks for the good tips.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Post author

      Morgan, Yes, mice or rats could be a problem if you have them in your area. You could make a box out of hardware cloth to keep your storage item in. That way air could circulate but you will keep rodents out.

      Reply
  12. Diana Kelley-Hess

    First time to post. I have a part of the basement that is a cellar, it is really dark and cool in my cellar, the problem is the potatoes still start to sprout way to early, we have already had to desprout them once already and it’s only December, what do you think could be the problem? We have bushels and bushels of potatoes, not just a few.

    Reply
    1. ~Rachel Arsenault Post author

      Diana, Light and temperature usually trigger sprouting. Did you follow the steps outlined in the article before placing the potatoes in storage? What kind of potatoes are they? Unfortunately, if they are already sprouting, there isn’t a way to stop them but you can slow it down by removing the sprouts. You can still eat sprouted potatoes as long as they are not too mushy or discolored. If you have a lot of potatoes in storage, I would look into other preservation methods such as canning and/or freezing.

      Reply
  13. dockrol

    The article on potatoes, referring to storage, I don’t have a basement and we get some snow which means temps sometimes dip to 30 degrees. What would be your suggestion for me on storing potatoes.

    Reply
    1. ©Rachel Arsenault Post author

      Ideally, potatoes should be stored in a dark environment at about 45˚F to 50˚F. Even if you don’t have these conditions or a basement, you can still store potatoes for a while. Do you have a garage, or unheated nook or closet in your home? Some place that stays pretty cool and dark but doesn’t get below freezing? Mother Earth News has some other ideas too in this article: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/food-storage-zm0z12aszcom.aspx#axzz3ELccIU9q

      Reply

Thank you so much for your comments. I love hearing from you!