Harvesting potatoes is one of the great joys of growing your own food. It’s like digging for treasure. Once all nuggets are out of the ground though, they must be properly cured to ensure their proper storage. One bad potato can surely ruin the lot and stink like none other. The following are the steps for successful potato harvest and curing.
Choose a warm sunny day when the soil is fairly dry to dig potatoes. Loose soil will make for easier work.
Once the vines have died back and turned brown, you can begin to harvest your potatoes. To check for readiness, rub the skin of one or two. If the skin easily slips off, you would be better to wait a bit longer, if it holds on, you can harvest them. A thickened skin will allow for better storage.
Gently lift the potatoes from the soil. You can use a potato fork by carefully prying up the perimeter (a foot or so away) of the planted area. If you plant in a tower, barrel, or deep mulch then you can simply pull back the mulch or disassemble the tower. When removing the potatoes from the ground be careful not to bruise or damage them. Ones that have been bruised will not store for long. Sometimes it is hard not to want to throw them into the bucket, but remember– dropping them more than six inches can cause bruising. If you accidentally poke one with your tools then set it aside for eating.
After harvesting, it’s time to cure them. Curing thickens the skins further for longer storage. Never wash your potatoes at any stage except right before eating them.
Spread potatoes out to dry in a dark, dry spot that is between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be a shed, garage, or basement. It is best that the potatoes don’t touch. After two weeks they are cured and ready for storage.
Check your lot for any that are bruised or damaged. If you can salvage these to eat, do so, as you don’t want to store them.
Mid to late season potatoes can be stored for up to six months if conditions are right. Ideal conditions include temperatures from 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit with 85-90% humidity. A root cellar of some sort, is ideal.
If possible, don’t store onions and potatoes together. Also avoid storing potatoes with apples or pears. The ethylene gas produced by these fruits will cause the potatoes to sprout. If you can’t avoid storing them together, at least provide good ventilation.
Potatoes should be stored in shallow bins, crates or burlap sacks. Whatever storage container you use, make sure it is not too deep (no more than 18 inches), and has some air circulation.
Once winter arrives, check over the potatoes often and remove any rotten ones.
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