The joys of harvesting potatoes; tips for storing, preserving

IMG_2902.JPGHarvesting potatoes is such fun. After weeks of watering and weeding, not seeing any actual potatoes, it’s great to dig in the soil and pull out handfuls of red and yellow potatoes. There are always so many hiding under the surface of the soil.

After digging all of these potatoes, the question is what to do with them. I mean, who can eat this many pounds of potatoes? I love potatoes, but that is a lot.

It’s a good idea to preserve them as fresh potatoes as long as you can. If you have a root cellar you are in luck, but lots of people don’t – me included. Here’s what I have found works best. Spread the potatoes out in the shade after digging to let the dirt that is stuck to them dry. (Note: it is best to dig them when the ground is dry; I stop watering for a couple of days before digging.)

Once they have dried out – usually a couple of hours is enough – gently brush some of the excess dirt from them. Don’t worry about getting it all, just enough so you don’t have dirt all over the house when you take them in. Be careful though with the delicate skins so you don’t damage them.

After that, store them in a cool place, out of the sun. I have a wooden box with holes in it to provide air flow.

I know what you’re thinking. The potatoes are still dirty. I should probably wash them. But resist that urge. While they would be all shiny from washing, they won’t last as long. That’s a tip I read once and it seems to be true. Keeping them dry with a little dirt makes them store better.

Now that you have all of them stored, what to do with them? I have included a Potato Salad recipe I created a couple of years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

But what about those you can’t eat? Here are a couple of options to further preserve them.
I like to freeze some potatoes. I quarter some, blanch them and freeze them.

To blanch, dip them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then remove them and put them in ice water.

Pat them dry and put them in a freezer bag or a sealable bag from which you can remove the air and they will keep in the freezer for more than a year. A tip on freezing is to lay them out on wax paper on a cookie sheet to freeze them so they do not freeze into one clump, then once they are frozen put them into a bag.

These are good to thaw and drop into a stew or roast or make them into mashed potatoes. Because of the changed texture, they don’t really work for things like potato salad any more.

Another option is to slice the potatoes up and freeze them in the same manner to make french fries or shred them into hash browns.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Potato Salad
(serves 6-8)
6 medium potatoes (if red leave peel on)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/8 cup mustard
1 1/2 cups mayo
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 1/2 heaping Tbsp. relish

Boil potatoes 30-35 minutes. Cut into chunks.
Mix mayo, mustard, relish and onions in a bowl. Mix in potatoes, then stir in eggs.
Refrigerate 4 hours.

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

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