Sprouting Potatoes, Oh My!
Why are my potatoes sprouting?
As we move into the warmer months, you may notice your potatoes sprouting and spoiling more quickly than expected. While the laundry room or garage may have worked just fine for storing potatoes during the winter months, our humid Southern temperatures are on the rise and an increase in warm air in your storage area can cause potatoes to ruin quickly.
According to our friends at University of Idaho Extension, potato sprouting and spoilage depend on four factors – temperature, light, humidity and air flow.
How Temperature Effects Potatoes
Potatoes keep best in cool environments, usually between 42° and 50°F. Most homes are kept between 65° and 75°F which is why leaving potatoes at room temperature can lead to growth of disease-causing organisms, water loss resulting in less firm potatoes, and/or sprouting. Keeping your potatoes in the refrigerator will prevent them from spoiling. However, doing so will cause the starch in your potatoes to convert to sugar resulting in a sweeter flavor and dark brown color when fried. Freezing potatoes is not recommended because the low temperatures can cause your potatoes to turn gray or black.
How Light Effects Potatoes
Potatoes keep best in the dark. Chlorophyll builds up in a potato when it is exposed to light. Typically, a little green under the skin doesn’t pose much of a problem. Simply remove the peeling and greening and prepare the remainder of the potato as planned. Keep in mind, however, the longer the exposure the more greening will occur. The more greening that occurs, the more likely the potato will turn bitter and potentially toxic if you eat a lot at one time. If you can’t tell if you’ve removed all of the green or if the potato looks a bit green all the way through, do not eat them. Better to throw them out when in doubt.
How Humidity Effects Potatoes
Potatoes keep best in a space with high humidity. This is why potatoes are stored at 90-95% relative humidity before shipping out to your grocery store. Since potatoes have such a high water content, we need to do what we can to prevent them from drying out to maintain their quality. However, most homes are kept at a much lower, more comfortable humidity level of 40-60%.
How Air-flow Effects Potatoes
Potatoes keep best with fresh air flowing around them. Otherwise, the carbon dioxide naturally put off by potatoes will build up around them and speed up the decaying process.
How to Store Potatoes at Home
If you buy a few potatoes to use within a few days, you can pretty much store them anywhere in your home – in a cabinet or in a cool, well-ventilated room or closet.
If you buy many pounds of potatoes and plan to keep them for weeks, storage requirements become a bit more rigid. Potatoes require a well-ventilated, cool (42-55°), dark, humid area of the home such as a cellar or basement.
However, not all homes have a well-ventilated cellar or ventilated basement. In this case, you can typically keep potatoes in the coolest part of your home, away from light, in a perforated bag. Doing so will slow decay, reduce the chance of greening, increase ventilation and humidity, and decrease water loss.
Check out our simple and delicious roasted potato recipe below. This recipe can be used with any of your favorite potatoes.
Herb Roasted Potatoes
- 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾ inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, parsley or dill
- Preheat oven to 450°F and place a rack in the upper third of the oven.
- Place all ingredients in a zip top plastic bag and mix well.
- Place on baking sheet and roast, turning occasionally with a metal spatula, until golden brown and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Toss with herbs and serve.
Each serving contains:
Protein 3 g
Carbohydrate 27 g
Fat 2 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Fiber 2 g
Sodium 202 mg