Potatoes are a mainstay for meals because they are so versatile, not to mention delicious when prepared correctly. Americans always believed potatoes were a commercial crop until the influx of Irish Immigrants came and turned the Americans on to the art of potato growing and eating!
When To Harvest Potatoes
For new potatoes, the gardener must pay close attention to the potato vines. Once flowers begin to develop, dig up the potatoes carefully. New potatoes should be used within one week of harvesting for the best flavor.
It is of the utmost importance to thoroughly soak down the potato mounds that still retain crops. Do not flood them out but give them a good soaking as the soil needs to firm itself around the remaining potatoes for later harvesting.
When the vines begin to show signs of dying but before your area has its first frost, harvest the remaining potatoes from their mounds.
How To Store Raw Potatoes
Potatoes are rather finicky about how they want to be stored in their natural state. It is important to shake or brush any soil off the potato after storage. Use your hands in a hand washing type technique to get most of the dirt off. Never wash the potatoes prior to storage as that will promote mold and deterioration.
Old fashioned burlap bags are the absolute best way to store your harvest. Honestly, the old way is still the best. I know it sounds silly but burlap allows air flow which prevents the potatoes from rotting. Some people use paper bags with holes poked into them and some use plastic bags with holes. Burlap sacks have been effectively used for centuries to keep potatoes fresh and free from mold.
Whether you choose burlap, paper or plastic, your freshly harvested crop must be stored in a cool, dark place. Basements and root cellars are the best storage spaces for potatoes. Not everybody has a root cellar or basement. You will need to find the coolest, darkest spot available to you for your crop storage.
Air flow is essential to proper potato storage. Many people have tried storing their crop in plastic bins only to find rotten potatoes. Do not waste your efforts by stuffing them in a plastic container. You will be disappointed. Breathable burlap or other such bags are the perfect for storing your potatoes. Thinking simple will make your potatoes last the six months they should in storage.
Other Potato Storage Methods
For those that have an absolute bounty of potatoes, you can create potato dishes and freeze them for about six months. This cuts down on future preparation time as all you will need to do is thaw and warm.
Mashed potatoes can be made and frozen in either storage bags or containers. It is advisable to leave them a little thicker than you would serve them because the small amount of fresh milk and butter makes them taste like you just made them. Be sure to let them come to room temperature before storing in the freezer.
Home fries are a family favorite. At harvest time, peel a batch of potatoes and parboil them. Once cooled, dice them and throw in a diced onion as well. Put them into plastic bags and store them in the freezer until needed. Peppers can also be added to the bag if your family enjoys them.
Potatoes have been a staple in our diets for many years. They are tasty and really versatile. There are not many meals that do not work well with potatoes. Using these methods will allow you to enjoy your harvest for many months.