In one of my college classes, The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World by Larry Zuckerman was required reading. How could anyone write an entire book on the potato? It was actually quite interesting to learn how the nutrition found in potatoes fed entire populations by simply planting, digging, and baking. Historically grain was a better longer term storage solution, however grain is labor and land intensive making it much too expensive for many people. Potatoes could be grown in almost any soil on any plot of land.
The Great Famine in Ireland was a period of starvation, disease and emigration between 1845-1852 caused by potato crop failure along with political policy failure. One third of the population was dependent upon the potato crop for survival. Potato blight destroyed the crop. It is estimated that over one million people died and another million emigrated as a result.
Potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse loaded with potassium, vitamin C, fiber, B6, and iron, when eaten with the skin. Potatoes get a bad wrap because so frequently they are peeled and fried leaving little of the original nutrients. They are an easy crop to grow and will store for several months providing fresh food through the winter.
- A root cellar is an ideal location for storing root vegetables like potatoes (45-50 degrees). Do not store near apples or they will spoil faster.
- Sort potatoes and select only the perfect ones for longer term storage (dehydrate or use soft or sprouting potatoes right away).
- Gently brush off dirt. Do not wash before storing.
- Store in the dark to prevent potatoes from turning green. The green is toxic and should not be eaten.
- Air circulation is important – store in baskets, mesh bags, or anything which will allow air to circulate. We store potatoes in old plastic milk crates stacked on top of each other with a black garbage bag over the top to help protect from light.
- Potatoes will store well through the winter in the garage in a protected environment. Use a large plastic tote and layer sawdust or wood shavings with potatoes. Moisten slightly. They keep surprisingly well this way.
Dehydrated potatoes are available in a variety of forms. Potatoes without added fats have a very long shelf life. Oils will shorten the shelf life significantly, but make for quick delicious meals.
- Dehydrated potato flakes will store 25-30 years when packaged in a #10 can. They are simple to prepare. Add boiling water, stir, and a few minutes later delicious mashed potatoes are ready to serve. They are better with a little salt and butter added.
- Dehydrated potato slices or dices will store for 25-30 years if packaged in a #10 can. They can be re-hydrated and fried up, or added to a soup.
- Potato granules are also available for longer term storage but take a little longer to prepare than potato flakes.
- Dehydrated hash browns are absolutely delicious, but have a shelf life of 5-7 years due to added oils. They are a good candidate for shorter term storage.
- Potato Pearls are available at LDS Canneries for shorter term storage.They contain butter which makes them taste amazing, but shortens the shelf life. Potato Pearls are added to boiling water for instant mashed potatoes or can be used as a thickener in soups.
Potatoes are great no matter how you choose to store them. They are a perfect source of healthy calories and are high in vitamins and minerals. Potatoes are versatile and can be cooked in many different ways, reducing diet fatigue which results from eating the same foods over and over again.
Consider dehydrated potatoes for your longer term storage. They do not require a grinder and need very little cooking fuel to prepare. One #10 can of potato flakes contains 39 servings (½ cup – 80 calorie) and has a shelf life of 30 years if stored in a cool, dry location.