How to Store Potatoes in a Hot and Humid Climate
A few years ago I harvested my first crop of potatoes. We kept digging and digging, finding more and more! I couldn’t believe how much a few rows produced! But then I realized our family couldn’t eat all of this right away! How would we store the potatoes so this great harvest didn’t end up rotting before we could eat it?
How do I store these potatoes?
Simple enough question, right? It turns out, this wasn’t such an easy question to answer. The resources I found suggested different methods. But one common thread emerged: potatoes like dark, humid, ventilated, and cold conditions — cold, as in 30 to 50 degrees fahrenheit.
What? I harvested these potatoes in July.
Dark and ventilated? Doable.
Humid, no problem.
Cold? No way.
Related podcast episode: Basics of Growing Potatoes: How a Beginner Can Have a Great Harvest
When You Don’t Have a Root Cellar
Yes, yes, a root cellar is ideal. But in the South I guess root cellars aren’t a thing. At least they weren’t when we were building our house. And despite my attempts to beg my husband to build me one (that would double as a tornado shelter…hello?), he wasn’t buying it. (He made a statement about how we could buy a lot of potatoes with what it would cost to build a root cellar slash tornado shelter…yada yada….)
So naturally I thought of my refrigerator. But apparently that isn’t the best way either. Though it is cold, dark, and can be humid, it isn’t ventilated. One site recommended putting a bowl of water and a small fan in the fridge.
Now that’s just getting too complex for me.
With all the professional – and best – solutions not working out so well, I decided to come up with something myself.
Where in my home is it the coldest, darkest, most humid, and fairly well ventilated?
Using a Pantry (Or Closet) to Store Potatoes
We have concrete floors, which helps with the cooling in our oppressive Arkansas summers. What if I placed the potatoes on the floor in the pantry? It’s as cool and dark as anywhere else in the house. It’s humid (everywhere is humid here), and with the occasional opening of the door throughout the day, it’s ventilated.
After letting them cure in the garage for a week (see instructions below), here’s what I did: I placed them only one layer deep in shallow plastic bins and placed the bins directly on the pantry floor. I’m not sure how many pounds I had that first year, but they kept for several months, almost until our fall harvest.
The following year, since I harvested more potatoes (35 pounds), I used 2 bins and stacked a plastic shoe rack and an elevated cookie tray to create a second level. (If the potatoes are stacked directly on top of one another, they will soften with the weight and will rot quicker.)
It’s not ideal. I may end up having to learn how to freeze potatoes or try my luck with homemade potato flakes eventually. But I know this method will keep me in fresh potatoes for many months — in my hot climate without a root cellar.
Because sometimes you just have to improvise.
How to Store Potatoes in a Hot and Humid Climate
Plastic bins (ventilated bins work best)
1. Immediately after harvesting potatoes, lay them on a newspaper in a garage or indoors, in a single layer. (Potatoes must be kept out of direct light. If it is a well-lit room, cover with another sheet of newspaper.)
2. After 1 week, gently brush off remaining dirt (DO NOT WASH!) with a soft-bristle brush or soft washcloth.
3. Transfer to plastic bin and place in a single layer. Place bin on the bottom of the pantry or non-carpeted dark room. The cooler the better. Use as needed.
*In my experience, storing potatoes this way will keep for 3-4 months. Check often and if you smell a foul odor, find the soft (or rotten) potato and remove immediately. Also, gently press on them weekly to make sure they aren’t growing soft. For those that are, use immediately.
How do you store your potatoes?
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I was totally excited to see this solution of yours. We’ve grown potatoes for years, in S. Arkansas, and found the same problems. I wanted to share how we coped.
But first, I love that you figured out the one-layer, newspaper, and racks idea. I should have thought of it, myself! Newspapers naturally wick away moisture, and I’ve always felt that although potatoes need humidity, they do not need to be dampish, which is how they always felt. BRAVA!
Second, I always canned the smaller ones. I did not peel them, since we like the skins, only scrubbed, and chose them according to if they would fit into a regular-mouth canning jar without much alteration, although I have cut them in halves. I had a friend who went ahead and cut in bite-sized pieces. These canned potatoes are WONDERFUL for potato salad and for grating for potato patties with egg and flour and seasonings added to fry in bacon grease for a hearty (but not very heart-healthy! 🙂 ) breakfast. My mother in law even heated and whipped them, occasionally, although the quality on that is minimal. Still tasty with gravy in a pinch.
Finally, I think frozen potaoes are out. The manual that came with our deep freeze even said so. I don’t know why, but possibly it has to do with darkening on thawing. However, I know French fries are sold frozen, so it may be possible to French-fry them until barely golden, then drain well, freeze on trays individually, then bag and return to freezer, for use as an oven-finished dish. I don’t know, though, since canning was always fine with us.
I look forward to hearing how your freezing venture turns out, since we no longer grow potatoes–we live carb-restricted lives and never eat them anymore unless someone gifts us with a small mess of them. 🙁
Katherine, thank you for the tips! I had never thought of canning them. We do lots of potato salad so that might be an option! I was only thinking of freezing them for hash brown potatoes, but I haven’t done much research on that. Will definitely do that before I try it since it doesn’t sound as easy as Ore Ida makes it look. 😉
Out of ALL …I mean hours of videos and endless aritcles,You simplified it. I live in north Atlanta…..HOT/HUMID for sure. I have a crawl space 3 feet high under my entire house,however it is covered in visqueen and critters WILL surely eat them. I know I have critters cause my wife placed her bottle of wine under there and a day or so later…..the bottle was 8 feet from where she put it and the cork had been eaten off and need I say anymore…..A drunk critter…..maybe! So I am going to build a metal mesh storage box….wala…..Hopefully it will suffice. If so…my wife will have a wine cellar as well. Do you say “potato” or potato…?. Thanks garden friend.
You’re welcome, Dwayne. We don’t have a crawl space so I can’t speak to the temperatures there, but hopefully it would stay cool enough! The storage box protection is a good idea!
Dwayne, I’m dying here at your story! About 2 hours from you in Anderson, SC and my mental picture of OUR crawlspace has me applauding your wife for her bravery to even stick her hand in the crawlspace!! But hey, you’ve got me thinking…if it weren’t for the critters we might be able to turn our potatoes into vodka under there!!
I’m a northern Arkansas gardener with the same potato dilemma. I had good luck this year freezing french fries and hash browns. For fries, I deep fried as normal for the first fry. Instead of cooling and doing the second fry, I cooled and froze them. I cooked them in a hot oven just like store bought. I only have a couple of packs left.They’re excellent. I grew Kennebec and Butte potatoes. For hash browns, I shredded or cubed and put in cold water, blanched a few minutes, dried, froze in single layer on cookie sheets then bagged. Again, excellent. I personally don’t care for the taste of canned potatoes so don’t do any that way. I might try dehydrating a few after blanching to see what happens.
That’s a great suggestion! I had wondered if I could pull off hash browns. I might try that next year. Thanks for the tip!
I read your suggestions, but the only dark cool place I have in the summer is my refrigerator and it is well vented. Does it harm the potatoes too store them in the refrigerator during our hottest months? I have a huge crawl space to store them in the winter and it is well ventilated. I just don’t have a place to store potatoes I buy during the summer from the grocery store.
Most of what I’ve read suggests that storing potatoes in the refrigerator isn’t a good idea because they need temps about 10 degrees warmer than a typical refrigerator. One option is, if you have a second refrigerator, or a mini-fridge, you could purposefully turn the temp up to about 45 degrees and even run a fan inside. (I haven’t tried this.) But, one article I read says you can store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with lots of holes as long as you don’t plan on frying them with oil, as they’ll turn brown when fried. Again, I haven’t tried it, but you could. (I’ll link that article below.) You mentioned buying the potatoes from the grocery store. In my experience these don’t last as long anyway since they’re not fresh-picked, and organic options have the shortest shelf-life (up to a month for non-organic and only a week or two for organic). Homegrown potatoes, even organically-grown, always keep longer for me. I hope this answers your question! https://steamykitchen.com/42764-should-potatoes-be-refrigerated.html
Do you think if after blanching the potatoes and cooling them, if you used alittle fruit fresh for oxidation, maybe the potatoes would stay nice and white? Haven’t tryed it but was thinking of doing a small batch of hash brown potatoes….
I have heard of people freezing hash brown potatoes. I am not sure of the process and whether blanching is recommended, but that’s definitely something to look into!
Certainly not an expert so I keep looking for alternatives to storing potatoes but this works for me for freezing hash browns. I bake potatoes, I’ve read they should be partially baked but I’ve found they can be fully baked & shredded then frozen. Not fully baked is a little easier to hand shred but either way works. I add onions & peppers when I cook them but you could add them when you freeze them & save a step. Hope this helps.
Hi to all,
I don’t live in Arkansas, but do live in Texas. So, you know how hot and humid it gets here in the summer time.
We are renting a house and it has a huge back yard, but can’t dig it up, so am doing my gardening this year with 2-4 raised beds and a WHOLE LOT OF Grow Bags. I plan on growing sweet potatoes as well as white potatoes. I’ll let you know how this goes at the end of harvest.
In the meantime, why don’t you take a small batch of your potatoes and experiment with the different ways that you all have talked about. That way you won’t ruin your entire crop if any of the experiments fail. I have always done this with anything that is a “new possibility” for preserving foods.
Anyway, I wish you all a great harvest in 2020.
Beginning Arkansas potato gardener here, and I was wondering if overwintering them in the ground for as long as possible would help extend the months of eating?
I suppose that might be possible if you plant potatoes for a fall/winter harvest. My early spring-planted potatoes are ready to harvest in June. For the ones that I accidentally leave in the ground over the summer, they sprout on their own in the fall, which means they’ve entered reproduction mode. So keeping them in the ground over the summer probably wouldn’t be ideal for storage.
Thank you for all the ideas. This is. my first time growing potatoes in WA. Early planting and I’m harvesting in July. Going to try the newspaper on garage floor bin method. I planted Yukons and should have waited another few weeks before harvesting as they are mostly quite small. Next year I will wait.
Best of luck! Potatoes are so fun to grow, especially the first time!
Here in SE Florida it’s difficult to find a cool spot anywhere except the house with AC running. The garage does not have AC, the panty does not have space or ventilation. While it sounds tacky, the best spot I’ve found to store our potatoes is on newspaper on the cool tile floor under the bed. Constant cool temp, dark, ceiling fan provides ventilation, easy to pull out to check for firmness, dust ruffle keeps them hidden. 😁
Pantry, not panty! 🤣