After reading our article about easy, outdoor root cellars as a means to store vegetables directly in the garden, I decided to give storing potatoes in the ground a try. Last year, after carefully digging, curing, and packing my potatoes into my unfinished basement — which I thought would be the perfect environment to hold my spuds through winter months — I had to have a panicked potato-soup canning session as I discovered most of the potatoes had gone soft and nearly rotted after just a few weeks. As a fellow gardener observed, I would have had better luck just setting them on the kitchen counter. This year, I was determined to discover how to store potatoes without ever having to dig them out of my garden beds. After all, the cool, moist soil is the perfect habitat for these starchy tubers.
I planted three types of potatoes last spring. (Read our article When and How to Plant Potatoes for more details on this part of growing potatoes). The early-maturing blue potato variety we enjoyed in early summer months, my midseason 'German Butterball' potatoes we dug and ate as we wanted throughout the rest of summer and into early fall. Through the hot summer months, I layered several inches of straw and leaves on top of my rows of potato plants to protect them from cooking in the ground (a step I regretted skipping with my first-year's potato crop). The plants died back and some even resprouted in the cooler fall weather, but I discovered that cutting off the new shoots made the potatoes good as new. Plus, by remaining in the cool, mulch-protected soil, the potatoes were crisp and fresh, and the ones I had missed in previous diggings grew new baby potatoes that made for a surprise fall treat.
My late-season 'Purple Viking' potatoes are the ones I chose to leave in the ground. I had created a deeper layer of mulch, adding to the existing layer from the other rows of potatoes as I dug out my starchy treasures. Through several frosts and a couple of deep snows, my potatoes stayed slumbering in the ground. Just now, in mid-March, I went to investigate if I had really discovered how to store potatoes best. You can see in the photo that the large-sized spuds were indeed kept safe and sound underground all winter.
Now, I can make this traditional colcannon recipe on St. Patrick's Day with last season's homegrown potatoes and this year's early overwintered baby kale!
You can read the article Food Storage: 20 Crops That Keep and How to Store Them for more ideas on storing potatoes and other great storage crops. If you have a potato-storage technique that has worked for you, please leave your tried-and-true method in the comments field below.
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