Hack my spudly storage skills!
April 7, 2017 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Help me best store my potatoes (regular and sweet) and other root vegetables. Difficulty: California, no basement/root cellar, no similar spot that stays cool year round.

I want to be able to store my white and sweet potatoes, and other root veggies, without breaking the bank. I live in California, hence, no root cellar, and I don't have a place that will stay cool year round - my garage gets awfully hot in the summer. I looked at this site, and am inspired, but the stuff on that site looks spendy, and space is at a premium. I don't have a lot of room in my kitchen cupboards - right now I'm storing potatoes in my pots and pans cupboard, which is do-able but not ideal. And they still sprout/go bad too quickly.

Would it be possible to store potatoes and the like in a secure, play-sand-filled box in a cool shady spot outside? I'd have to pest-proof it to a fare-thee-well, as I have squirrels, possums, skunks, and raccoons - the latter are pretty damn good at prying things open. But it would probably stay cooler than my garage.

Tater-storers in warm/ish climates, your suggestions please!
posted by Rosie M. Banks to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I live in Texas and I store sweet potatoes in a milk crate on top of a standalone pantry that is next to our refrigerator. They last a couple of weeks with 100% success rate, but they are store bought so probably sprayed with anti-sprouting stuff.
posted by cmoj at 11:59 AM on April 7, 2017

I've tried to tackle this in the past when I've grown potatoes in my garden and of course you harvest all of them at once and suddenly you have two months worth of potatoes. I did have a basement, but that's not worth much in August in Pennsylvania where it's 80 degrees even in the basment.

I can't remember all the details of the research I did, but what I wound up using was a Rubbermaid tub and egg cartons. I stored the potatoes in/on the egg cartons so they were not touching one another and got some air circulation around them. I made absolutely sure the tub was light-tight. And contrary to what you might think, high humidity is important for potato-storing. If you're in an arid climate (which I most definitely am not), you might want to put a container of water in with the taters to keep the humidity up as much as possible.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:25 PM on April 7, 2017

Why has no one brought up putting them in the fridge? That's where potatoes and onions go, in my lifelong experience. Just chuck 'em in one of the drawers in the bottom and leave them there. They stay good for months. Source: Texan, it's hot here.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:31 PM on April 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Why has no one brought up putting them in the fridge?

"When stored in the fridge the starch in the potato is converted to sugar.
When baked or fried these sugars combine with the amino acid asparagine and produce the chemical acrylamide, which is thought to be harmful."
posted by Lanark at 2:00 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

While I can't speak to the health effects, fridge storage of potatoes is only really appropriate for new potatoes that you don't mind (or actively want) being sweet. Maincrop potatoes should always be stored somewhere fairly cool and very dark. The main thing, in my experience, is making sure that they are separate (an inch or so of gap) and placed on a porous surface.

If you're buying potatoes, rather than growing a seasonal crop, the bottom of your coolest cupboard, with kitchen paper spread out and some of shade cobbled together out of cardboard to protect from light when you open the door, will be fine.

Might be worth noting that sprouting, although not ideal, is not, in itself, harmful. You can eat potatoes that have started sprouting with no ill effect to health and often no impairment to flavour or texture.
posted by howfar at 2:46 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I noticed my kitchen drawers stay cool, even in hot California. Cabinets on the shady side of the house stay cool too.
posted by Oyéah at 8:27 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Refrigerated potatoes are unacceptable because of their high sugar content, which makes them taste wrong and causes them to turn too dark in cooking. However, storing them in a warm place for a day or more allows the sugar to turn back to starch, so you can refrigerate if you plan ahead and take the potatoes you are going to cook out of the refrigerator in advance. See Shirley Corriher, "Preparing perfect potatoes requires some know-how", in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 10, 2010:
Unfortunately, when potatoes are refrigerated, their starches convert to sugars, which wreck the fluffy, starchy texture. The good news is that this is a reversible reaction. If you keep the potatoes warm for a day, their sugars convert back to starch. I recommended that the ship's cooks move a day's worth of potatoes to the hot room each day. Using potatoes that had been hot for 24 hours, their baked potatoes were fluffy again.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 11:17 AM on April 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the replies! I think I am going to try Soren_Lorenson's Rubbermaid-and-egg-carton storage idea.

I have never refrigerated potatoes, because of the starch turning into sugar as has been mentioned. I didn't know that letting potatoes sit in a hot room will turn the sugar back into starch. As for sweet potatoes, refrigerating them turns them tough and woody, which is why I want to store them out of the fridge.

Oh, for a root cellar! But in Cali with a slab foundation, ain't gonna happen. I'll try the Rubbermaid tub instead.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:10 PM on April 9, 2017

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