Because there are few things worse than a shriveled up old potato with sprouting eyes.
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We’ve all been there — you buy a big bag of potatoes, thinking you’ll have a week or two to use them up. Then, you go to check and find the spuds soft, wrinkly, green, or sprouting. And don’t even think about the smell of rotting potatoes (hint: it’s not good). However, there are ways to keep your potatoes fresh without sprouting, wrinkling, and rotting. You may have heard old wives tales about storing them under the sink, but that’s definitely not the case. And, as a general rule, it’s best not to store them on the countertop or in a dark corner, either. Here’s why:

The reason taters turn green is the same as why most plants turn green: chlorophyll. Potatoes will turn green as they’re exposed to light because they seek to harvest the light, just like plants. The light in your kitchen gets that chemical reaction going. While it might seem like it makes sense to do the opposite and store them under the sink, that couldn’t be further from the truth. By putting them in a dark, damp area, you’re simulating their dark and moist growing environment — so they sprout. Both processes deplete the potatoes from within, which is why they begin to wrinkle (and eventually rot).

Instead, you want to store your potatoes in a cool, dry, and dark place. A space like the pantry or cupboard is great, so long as it’s not near the sink and frequented enough that they won’t be forgotten. If you don’t have a pantry or cupboard that works, a ventilated and dry basement is also a good option. One note: you definitely don’t want to store your potatoes in the refrigerator. When potatoes are stored in the fridge, their starches are converted to sugar, which can lead to the formation of a chemical called acrylamide when cooked. Acrylamide is considered to be a dangerous chemical, and is associated with a higher cancer risk. 

Pro tip — remove your potatoes from the plastic bag before storing them. Instead, transfer the tubers to a paper bag with the top open, a basket, or a mesh sack. Potatoes need to breathe, and keeping them in a closed container will promote moisture and shorten their lifespan. 

Can you store potatoes with other vegetables?

There’s been some debate about whether potatoes should cohabitate with foods like onions, ripe avocados, or bananas. These foods release ripening gasses, which can cause your potatoes to rot faster than they would when stored separately. However, storing potatoes with apples, which also produce this ripening agent, ethylene gas, has been shown to inhibit sprouting. If you keep your potatoes with the rest of your produce, you might find that they tend to go bad fairly quickly. Hedge your bets by keeping them in solitary confinement from now on (or with apples, if you choose). 

Credit: Caitlin Bensel

How long can potatoes last when stored correctly?

When stored in a cool pantry, potatoes can last for up to a few months. Keeping them on the counter or at room temperature will shorten their lifespan, and they will most likely only last for about a week. In general, you’ll know when your potatoes are bad if they feel soft, have several blemishes or black spots, or smell bad. Sprouted potatoes can be ok to eat, but only if you’ve peeled and removed all of the eyes. If they seem green, toss them in the garbage can. 

The takeaway? Keep your potatoes cool, dry, and in a dark place. As a best bet, also store your potatoes separate from other fruits and veggies. And, to really ensure that you don’t find yourself frantically using potatoes before they go bad, consider only buying what your family will realistically eat in a week (sorry, three pound bags). However, if you still need things to do with those potatoes before they go bad, try these 22 recipes for potato salad.