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What are the Small Exterior Cracks in the Skin of a Potato?


I’m a long-time retail produce manager and notice that sometimes new shipments of potatoes in consumer bags and (more noticeably) in bulk cartons have little exterior cracks in the skin. These resemble thumbnail impressions and I don’t know what to say to customers that question what these little indentations are all about. Can you shed some light on the matter?


Ah, ask any grower or shipper: Sometimes the potato business simply isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My apologies, that was a lead in I couldn’t pass up. And a great question, by the way. The thumbnail indentations you see are known in the industry as air checks. Fortunately, air checks aren’t considered a scoreable defect per se, and do not affect the overall quality of the potato. However, you’re right when you indicate air checks can affect sales. Air checks occur mostly in the dead of winter when potatoes are stored too cold and then placed in an unrefrigerated area (such as on a loading dock, or in your back-room storage area). The wide temperature range creates stress. It’s a little bit like when other natural materials expand and contract. Since potatoes don’t have expansion joints (like a sidewalk) the vulnerable spuds react with the random cracking; air checks. Proper storage and handling is key at every junction of the Idaho potato journey from our fields to your displays. Here’s more details about post-harvest information on the topic.