Eagle, Idaho, April 16, 2020 -- As COVID-19 peaks, officials are recommending consumers stay indoors as much as possible and try to limit their grocery shopping to once every two weeks. For many products, storage isn’t a problem at all. However, when it comes to perishable foods, like produce and specifically potatoes, it can be a challenge trying to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for weeks.
“For more than three weeks in a row (week ending 3/29) potatoes led the produce category in grocery stores nationwide in terms of volume; they’ve been up as much as 65%,” explained Frank Muir, President & CEO, Idaho Potato Commission (IPC). “Potatoes are an all-American favorite, a popular comfort food and have a long shelf life so we’re not surprised to see folks load up on spuds. But just like all produce, potatoes need to be stored properly in order to stay fresh for weeks, even months.”
The IPC has a few tips to ensure your potatoes remain fresh as long as possible.
Potato Storage Starts at the Store
Look for potatoes that don’t have any cuts or bruises; they tend to spoil quicker in storage. A perfect Idaho® potato has smooth, net-textured skin and few and shallow eyes.
Don’t Wash Yet
With everything going on in the world you may be tempted to wash your potatoes as soon as you get home. Don’t! The little bit of dirt you may see protects the potato and keeps it from prematurely spoiling.
Keep Potatoes Cool but not Cold
Store your potatoes between 45° and 55°F and never put them in the refrigerator (the average refrigerator temperature is 35°F). If potatoes are stored below 41°F the starch will turn to sugar, creating a slightly sweet taste and possibly affecting cooking performance. Cellars are the ideal place to store spuds. If you don’t have a cellar, a cupboard that’s not next to the oven or other heat source will work. If potatoes are stored above 55°F they will dehydrate quicker (keep in mind potatoes are about 80% water).
How They’re Stored is Key
It’s okay to store the potatoes in their retail bags; however, they’ll hold up a little better if you remove them from the bag and place in a well-ventilated basket or bowl, as this will allow the potatoes to ”breathe” – ahhh!
Stay Away from the Light…
Potatoes are living organisms and can reproduce on their own. Too much light (sunlight or indoor light) will “wake them up” and cause the potato skins to turn a greenish color. This is normal, but green skins will give the potatoes a bitter flavor. It’s still safe to eat them; just peel off the green part and prepare as desired.
…And From Onions
Onions release a gas in storage that accelerates potato ripening. So keep those onions far away!
Uh oh, My Potatoes Sprouted
Sometimes potatoes will begin to sprout from their little “eye” indentations. This is normal, too. Pick off the sprout and the potato is ready to be prepared.
FIFO means First In, First Out. If you bought spuds and still have a few left from your last grocery shopping trip, use the older ones first.
For more tips on preparing and storing potatoes visit the IPC’s in-house expert, Dr. Potato.
About the Idaho Potato Commission
Established in 1937, the Idaho Potato Commission is a state agency that is responsible for promoting and protecting the famous “Grown in Idaho®” seal, a federally registered trademark that assures consumers they are purchasing genuine, top-quality Idaho® potatoes. Idaho’s growing season of warm days and cool nights, ample mountain-fed irrigation and rich volcanic soil, give Idaho® potatoes their unique texture, taste and dependable performance. These ideal growing conditions are what differentiate Idaho® potatoes from potatoes grown in other states. For more information, visit www.idahopotato.com.