By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 2 September 2016.
It was hot earlier this week so it was definitely time to dig up the last of the potatoes. A gardeners’ law might be that the hardest jobs are done on hot or wet days. If you read our blog on harvesting potatoes, you will be ready for this one on storing them.
‘Early’ potatoes don’t store well but if you planted ‘main crop’, this blog is for you. All potatoes should be lifted by mid-October at the very latest if they are to avoid damage by slugs, weather or blight. Lift ‘main crop’ when the green tops have all died back and, when pressed gently, the potato’s skin feels firm. Ideally lift them after a spell of dry weather which will toughen the skins up (so, that is why it is always hot when I lift my potatoes!).
How to store potatoes
Here is a summary of advice from the RHS and other gardening sources with some of my own do’s and don’ts.
- Lift the potatoes on a dry day, go for a coffee and leave them on the ground for two or three hours to dry off.
- Handle them gently: they bruise easily and if bruised they don’t keep well.
- With your hands brush off loose earth and, as you go, pick out to use now or very soon any that are grazed or marked or have green areas (because light reached them while growing).
- Spread the unmarked potatoes loosely in a cardboard box, or open paper bags or sacks, covered loosely with newspaper in your shed or garage for 10 days or so, then remove any that feel soft or you didn’t notice were marked.
- Store the unmarked potatoes in hessian or paper sacks, or in a newspaper lined and covered cardboard box, in a dark, cool (but not very cold), dry and airy place (the back of a shed or garage often works well).
- Protect from mice! I am following the advice of Sally Nex, in her column in the September issue of ‘The Garden’ (you need to be a member of the RHS to read it now – there’s an idea for a birthday gift!), and will hang hessian bags of potatoes from the roof of my shed. This has the added advantage of making sure they are in an airy place.
- Wash the potatoes before you need to cook them.
- Store them near apples, which give off gases that can encourage the potatoes to sprout.
- Store them in plastic materials, including plastic-lined paper sacks, because the moisture from the potatoes can’t escape and you will end up with a rotten mess
- Store them in warm corners of the kitchen (under the sink is OUT).
And a final DO from me, to think about the varieties of potatoes you might plant next year.
Our co-blogger, Anna Hussain, offers helpful advice about varieties in her recent blog.
Happy eating, this year and next!