The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Storing potatoes in the fridge

Storing potatoes in the fridgeA couple of months ago when I mentioned that I was storing our potatoes in the fridge, Daddy emailed me to say that was a bad idea.  So I poked around on the internet, and quickly found lots of unofficial sources agreeing with him.  However, when I went to the experts, I discovered that the worst thing to happen to potatoes in the fridge is that cold temperatures result in starches being converted to sugars, making your potatoes taste sweet and fry up dark.  We plant Yukon Golds specifically because we like the sweet taste, so that chemical change wasn't enough to deter me.

With digging out our fridge root cellar still on the back burner, I actually had to toss two thirds of the potatoes under my bed for safe-keeping.  I wasn't sure how they would do, but the spuds are still hard and happy despite warm summer temperatures.  And every time my hand drifts down and rubs up against a potato, I dream about my ancestress who was pulling potatoes out from under her bed when Indians came to visit....

Our homemade chicken waterer prevents coccidiosis.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I can tell you are a miracle whip fan like me!, DH cracks on me about it as he will only eat Hellmans.
Comment by Alison Sun Sep 19 12:40:06 2010
Actually, it's store-brand mayonaisse --- we eat mayonaisse so rarely that I don't buy any particular brand. I'll bet the store-brand designer was trying to make it look like Miracle Whip, though.
Comment by anna Sun Sep 19 14:06:22 2010

When I was little, we kept the potatoes in the aboveground cupboard under the stairs. Which didn't work that well in a house with central heating. At that time it was recommended that they be kept in a cool basement. Which was kind of silly, because very few houses here are built with an underground basement because of the high water table.

So after I moved out to an appartment I started storing them in the bottom drawer of the fridge without ill effects, as far as I can tell. Sacks of store-bought potatoes nowadays carry the advice to store them in the fridge.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Sep 19 14:10:30 2010

I don't think that I've ever read anything on a bag of potatoes other than the variety --- what a smart way to figure out how to store potatoes! :-)

As Titus mentioned over on facebook, the one downside of storing the potatoes in the fridge and the ensuing sugars is that it makes the potatoes a bit worse for you since it increases their glycemic index. However, I don't think that white potatoes are good for you in any form, so we eat them rarely. Lately, I've had more of a French mindset about food --- eat what tastes good, but take the rich foods in extreme moderation.

Comment by anna Sun Sep 19 15:31:07 2010
Growing up in Alabama, we would put the potatoes in a single layer in a dark stall of the barn and cover them with a layer of hay. Each week through the winter we would go get a bucket of potatoes from the barn. Some would get chewed by mice but we didn't lose many and they would last fine until the earliest spring. It does get cold in north Alabama but the hay kept the potatoes from freezing and rotting. I guess they cold probably had the same effect as their being in a refrigerator. You might be able to make a storage spot under your trailer that would stay dry and be handier than the buried freezer but cooler during the winter than under the bed.
Comment by Lisa Sun Sep 19 20:00:20 2010
The best way to keep irish potatoes fresh and crisp all winter it to mound them on the earth, cover with straw, add a thick covering of dirt, and top with something waterproof. A stovepipe into the mound from the side, at ground level, allows you to reach in and pull out potatoes without disturbing the pile. The pipe should be stuffed with old rags, feedsack or other object to keep it insulated and keep the varmits out. The straw covering is made up of bats thick as a new york phone book.
Comment by Errol Sun Sep 19 21:07:54 2010

Lisa --- I've read about people storing potatoes and apples in the barn, but I've always assumed that's in a warmer climate than here. Looking at a zone map, you're probably either in zone 7 or 8, and we're in zone 6, so I'd be leery of trying it here.

Daddy --- We actually made a potato clamp (which is what that's called) a couple of years ago. I wasn't overly pleased with the results since quite a few of the potatoes froze and rotted. Granted, as I mentioned in the above linked page, there were quite a few things I could have done differently that might have improved our results.

Comment by anna Mon Sep 20 08:07:01 2010
This post got me remembering other ways I've seen food stored. When I rented a farm in Vinton County, Ohio, I tried a local way of storing cabbages. They were buried with their stems sticking out of the ground. It worked quite well. I met a family near Frankfort who were pre-canning. Green beans were strung around the house to dry (leatherbritches). Their fruit was either sliced and dried, or, with apples, was stored in baskets on top of which a saucer of sulfur was burned while the basket was covered to keep in the fumes. Meat was salted or smoked and hung in the smokehouse. Grain was stored in an airy place with wire to keep out the rats. In Virginia I kept apples and onions in the barn on top of bales of hay.
Comment by Errol Mon Sep 20 09:27:32 2010
Is there any other kind?
Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Sep 20 11:35:49 2010

Daddy --- I'll bet the cows in the barn helped raise the temperature and keep it above freezing. I've read that really old timey people used to stable their livestock under their house for exactly that reason.

I've heard about people storing cabbages that way and have always been curious about it! Maybe one day I'll try it!

Roland --- Daddy's using "white potatoes" to distinguish from "sweet potatoes", which you store (and grow) completely differently. (Sweet potatoes are in a different family and are potatoes only in that they have tubers that we eat. You may be more familiar with an unrelated but similar food called yams.)

Comment by anna Mon Sep 20 11:51:12 2010

According to the nutrient info on the last bag of potatoes I bought (a biologically grown breed called "Ditta") they contained the following nutrients (per 100 g):

energy355 kJ (85 kcal)
proteins2.0 g
carbohydrates 19.0 g
of which sugars 1.0 g
fat 0 g
fiber 3.0 g
sodium 0 g

If I'm not mistaken, carbohydrates are our main source of energy. And potatoes contain no fat or salt. Doesn't seem too bad to me. (That's not to say people should be living on french fries or potato chips, btw. :-) )

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Sep 20 15:14:24 2010

Carbohydrates are our main source of energy, but everything I've been reading lately suggests that they shouldn't be (and weren't before agriculture made grains and potatoes so easy to come by.) Instead, we should be getting a much larger proportion of our energy from protein --- many nutritionists are now recommending that protein make up 20 to 25% of our daily calories. Since I like to get a lot of my daily calories from vegetables too (and butternut pies :-) ), that doesn't leave much room for starches. I keep things simple and consider potatoes a starch since they're only about 9% protein (based on my quick math and your data --- could be wrong...) (Do be aware, though, that high protein diets are not good for folks with kidney problems.)

On a more positive note, sweet potatoes are supposed to be a little better for you since they have more nutrients to balance out all those carbs.

Comment by anna Mon Sep 20 15:27:58 2010

I think it's only 2% proteins; 2 grams out of 100. Or do you only consider the fraction of the dry weight? In that case it's 8% by my calculation.

With regard to nurtrition, I try to follow the "wheel of five".

But I'm not sure that food composition is as critical as some diet gurus want us to believe. People through the ages have adapted to many different diets (e.g. some groups can digest lactose while others can't).

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Sep 20 16:55:23 2010

You do the percentage by calories --- how many calories of protein are in the serving versus total calories.

I consider the major decline in health of people as soon as they became farmers an indication that diet is important, and that changing over to a carbohydrate-based diet is not such a good idea. I know that in the last couple of months as I've been decreasing the carbohydrates in my diet, I've been much happier!

Comment by anna Mon Sep 20 17:05:46 2010

Storing potatoes in the fridge can lead to increased levels of acrylamide:

Comment by Susan Sat Jun 23 15:08:21 2012
Susan --- Thanks for sharing. Since we eat so few products that are likely to produce acrylamide (grains and potatoes), and since the FDA isn't actually sure that it's not safe when eaten in small quantities, I don't think I'm going to worry. :-)
Comment by anna Sat Jun 23 15:48:20 2012

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