storing potatoes and onions in the very same kitchen
October 10, 2022 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Seriously! I know they can't be kept together. I have tried keeping them in separate cupboards but they need air circulation. I don't have a lot of counter space and I don't have a basement. What has worked for you?
posted by uans to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've never heard that they can't be kept together! (Why not?) Ours sit in their original bags next to one another on a shelf in a dark cabinet. It's fine.
posted by shadygrove at 9:05 AM on October 10, 2022 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: They (supposedly) encourage each other to go soft more quickly.
posted by uans at 9:10 AM on October 10, 2022

How many do you have? I have a bowl containing onions and a bowl containing potatoes next to each other on a shelf, but they get cycled through in a week at most.
posted by tavegyl at 9:14 AM on October 10, 2022

I throw mine in a paper bag (folded down neatly) on the pantry floor. Most of the time they stay in the plastic bags I bought them in at the grocery store, so more or less separated. It's generally fine for weeks.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:14 AM on October 10, 2022

Do yours actually soften quickky? Like shadygrove mine are close, i keep them together in a basket and never noticed an issue.
posted by 15L06 at 9:15 AM on October 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've never noticed an issue either. I store potatoes, onions, and have a hook for bananas on little silver round vegetable holding thing right on the counter.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:23 AM on October 10, 2022

Huh, my potatoes have not been lasting very long. I wonder if this is why? I know that you can speed ripening by capturing ethylene for bananas, so makes sense that onions could impact potatoes.
posted by haptic_avenger at 9:24 AM on October 10, 2022

Mine last way longer than a week - especially potatoes. That 10 lb bag lasts weeks.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:24 AM on October 10, 2022

I keep mine in the same tin drawer in an old hutch. They seem fine in there, I've never noticed them getting soft inordinately quickly.
posted by lyssabee at 9:32 AM on October 10, 2022

I keep my onions in the fridge; completely stops the tearing up issue when cutting them.

My potatoes don't actually last long enough to store anywhere for more than a couple days so they just live in the fruit bowl on the counter.
posted by cooker girl at 9:41 AM on October 10, 2022

Response by poster: So they don't need air circulation? So far, my onions get mushy , and the potatoes start sprouting and getting soft before two weeks, no matter what I try
posted by uans at 9:58 AM on October 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I recently heard that if you store apples with your potatoes it will keep the potatoes from sprouting.
posted by Umami Dearest at 10:10 AM on October 10, 2022

I have always kept my onions in the light and never had a problem. I only keep potatoes in the dark. In my experience the biggest predictor of how quickly they will sprout is whether they are organic or not, since apparently some are treated with sprout inhibitor, but it’s not totally consistent.
posted by HotToddy at 10:11 AM on October 10, 2022

In response to your update, urans, I've had onions in the fridge for a couple months with no issues at all. I keep them in one of the crisper drawers with the humidity down to zero.
posted by cooker girl at 10:28 AM on October 10, 2022

I keep onions or potatoes in a combo of the bottom of fridge and the pantry based on just randomly putting them there.
posted by raccoon409 at 10:30 AM on October 10, 2022

Separate cupboards seems like the ideal solution to me. I don't think they really need so much air circulation that it won't work to keep them in a cupboard. Do you have unusually airtight cupboards? But if you feel like that hasn't worked for you, you could try putting them in separate brown paper grocery bags (with the tops folded over to keep out the light) anywhere in your house where you can find a spot for them - top of a bookcase, under the coffee table, on the floor in a corner of the kitchen.
posted by Redstart at 10:39 AM on October 10, 2022

Best answer: Seconding onions in the fridge. Mine keep easily 1–2 months in there and I haven't noticed any quality issues. (But I don't put potatoes in the fridge as they become unpleasantly sweet when stored there.)
posted by aws17576 at 11:21 AM on October 10, 2022

I asked a sort of relevant question in my previous home, but our new kitchen has a hilarious amount of storage space (humble brag!) so I use an empty under-counter cabinet to store onions, shallots, all kinds of potatoes, garlic, and hard squash. I call it my root cellar. They are all together in there, in total darkness, no bags, sitting on the wire, pull out drawers. Except for the mess that can happen with onion peels when I pull out a drawer, ALL the veg stored in there lasts a ridiculously longer time than any other storage solution I used to have.
posted by atomicstone at 11:24 AM on October 10, 2022

Best answer: Organic farmer here. We store large quantities of onions and potatoes (among other vegetables) year-round.

You can store onions and potatoes together. In general they like similar conditions -- cool, dark, well-ventilated. Good ventilation is required to prevent the build-up of moisture, which will accelerate decay.

For that reason, you should never store onions or potatoes in plastic bags. They should always be in paper or mesh bags. Potatoes should be in a dark place.

We store our most of our potatoes and onions in a ventilated closet at 2-4 degrees Celsius, and where they keep for 6-8 months without any special treatments.

It is true that storing certain fruit and vegetable combinations can accelerate spoilage. Apples (and various fruit) produce ethylene gas, which will accelerate ripening and spoilage in most vegetables. (Here's a quick-reference PDF.)

Potatoes, however, are not very sensitive to ethylene, and as Umami Dearest alluded to, some commercial facilities actually pump ethylene into potato storage to try to suppress sprouting. (It's unclear how well this works.)
posted by mcbaya at 11:29 AM on October 10, 2022 [17 favorites]

We keep ours in the bags they came in (usually paper or netting) next to each other in a wooden crate on the bottom shelf of the pantry for a month or more at a time without issues. My aunt has a freestanding wooden bin with a hinged lid on top and drawer on the bottom that is specifically designed to store potatoes and onions, and that seems to work well, too. (The sort of thing she has comes up in a Google image search for "potato and onion bin")
posted by abeja bicicleta at 11:30 AM on October 10, 2022

I put the potatoes in one of the crisper drawers in the fridge, along with carrots and other root vegetables and fresh garlic and leeks, if I have them. And hardy herbs, like thyme. The onions and dry garlic hang in a metal basket on the wall, near a window that is almost always a bit open for ventilation.
I had never heard of the onion/potato thing either, but I can't have the potatoes outside the fridge for more than a day.
posted by mumimor at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2022

I know you're not supposed to keep potatoes in the fridge, and I accept that the reasons for this are sound, but the only way I can stop my potatoes from sprouting within two days of purchase is to keep them in the fridge. If the house is warm enough for me, it's too warm for the potatoes, no matter how dark a place I put them in. They still taste good when cooked from the fridge, and they keep for long enough for me to use them.

I keep my onions in the fridge too, after one quite lengthy "what *is* that smell??" period related to a lurking onion in an unseen corner of the countertop. It doesn't seem to do them any harm, or any of the other things sharing the salad drawer with them.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:53 PM on October 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have one of these for onions, one for potatoes: Onion Bag
posted by sm1tten at 1:37 PM on October 10, 2022

We keep onions and potatoes in the fridge crisper drawer, separated by either whatever bag they came in or by nothing. It's too warm and humid here to keep either out of the fridge for long but, in the fridge, they co-exist quite happily and last for up to a few weeks if we let them.
posted by dg at 3:55 PM on October 10, 2022

I keep potatoes in the cupboard and onions in the fridge. I find the onions make me tear up less when they’re chilled and I have noticed the potatoes getting mushy when I store them both in the cupboard.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:59 PM on October 10, 2022

We keep both in the same drawer of the fridge because potatoes in a cabinet grow roots crazy fast and get mushy fast. I've never heard of having to keep onions at room temperature? I always assume they would rot and get mushy so they've always gone in the fridge.
posted by at 8:06 PM on October 10, 2022

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