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People have lots of opinions on the best ways to store fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes? Keep them out of the dang fridge or they’ll lose their flavor! (Or not.) Berries need a rigorous bath. Fresh herbs require a multi-step storage technique to keep them vibrant.
When a home cook has to catalog all the optimal ways to keep food at its best, it’s no wonder that some of our hardier staples fall by the wayside. Have you ever given much thought to how to store potatoes? They’re so rough-and-tumble-looking, they seem like they’ll be fine no matter where they get shoved.
Have some sympathy, for even the staunchest potato is a little more delicate than it looks.
One of the first issues to show up in an improperly stored tater is a green tinge to its skin or flesh. Unless you’re an experienced gardener or a potato farmer, you may not think much about the potato’s life as a plant — it sprouts into a little green shrub, with crinkly leaves that look like a larger version of mint.
That green comes from chlorophyll, which helps change sunlight into energy. So guess what? When your potatoes start to go greenish, it’s because they’ve been exposed to light for too long.
Which wouldn’t be a big deal, except that green tint can indicate toxins are building up in the potato. Those toxins, called glycoalkaloids, can be harmful in large enough quantities. (Don’t worry too much — potato “poisoning” usually results in sleepiness and an irritated gut — but if it can be avoided, it should.)
How To Store Potatoes
This brings us to the first potato storage hint: Keep it dark. Spuds would prefer to stay underground, so try to mimic that cool darkness somewhere in your kitchen. According to The Kitchn, 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit is an ideal range, if possible.
It’s equally important to keep those taters dry. Not dry as in dessicated, but dry enough that the small amounts of water they release over time can evaporate — mold and bacteria love dampness. Food52 recommends using an organic cotton mesh bag, a ventilated container or a paper bag. Anything that will allow air to circulate.
Finally, potatoes should stay in their own container. Storing them closely with other produce, like bananas, can mingle their various off-gases, speeding up spoilage and possibly transferring flavors. (No one wants a banana-flavored baked potato with their steak.)
How To Store Onions And Garlic
So, we have our watchwords for how to store potatoes: Dark, dry, cool and secluded. And this also goes for the potato’s frequent companions, onions and garlic. Like potatoes, we eat the root part of these alliums. And, like potatoes, they’re happiest in the dark.
Onions are a little tricky: The type of onion can determine its happy place. In general, though, most varieties respond to the cool-dark-dry treatment. Sweet onions contain more liquid, according to The Spruce Eats, and don’t store well for long.
Garlic, however, is forgiving, especially as an intact head. The Pioneer Woman says a bulb can last up to six months in the right conditions — kept in one piece in a cool, dark, dry place. (Sensing a theme here?)
Whatever you do for all three of these flavorsome friends, don’t stash them in the refrigerator! The potatoes will turn sweet, and not in a good way. The garlic sprouts unpleasant-tasting green stems. Onions lose their crunch and become generally sad and gross.
Handy, then, that there are containers made especially to store these items! Check out these ideas from Amazon:
Available for $39.09, this set of cute, carbon-steel canisters looks old-fashioned, but each container has a nifty airtight lid. Which could be bad, except they also sport perfect little ventilation holes at the bottom of each canister! Yay! Gotta keep things aired out, right?
Reviewers seem to like them, too, with 84% giving the canisters a 5-star rating.
Priced at $49.90, these countertop cuties are a little different than the ones above: They’re stackable, for one thing. And the lids, while not airtight, are made of bamboo. Breathability for the win!
“This is a beautiful set, the perfect size, not only for my kitchen, but for the amounts of potatoes, onions and garlic I tend to buy,” wrote one reviewer named James R. Hazelton.
No matter what container you decide to use, treat your taters (and onions and garlic) with care, and they’ll treat your tastebuds right back!