Because there are few things worse than a shriveled up old potato with sprouting eyes.
You only have to smell a rotting potato once, and you will never forget it. I learned this the unfortunate way one summer, and I vowed to never let it happen again. Granted, my wayward potato had been hidden for some time. Still, I’ve frequently turned to a 3-pound bag I purchased a week or so beforehand, only to find the spuds soft, wrinkly, green, or sprouting.
Clearly, I haven’t been storing them properly. Depending on what else I have in my kitchen, I toss them either in a dark corner or in a basket near a window. Turns out, these are both bad ideas.
The reason taters turn green is the same as why most plants turn green: chlorophyll. The light in my kitchen gets that chemical reaction going. Conversely, when I put them in the darkish corner near my kitchen sink, I’m 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).
The solution is to store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Cool as in not near the stove or heating vents (but not in the refrigerator). Dry and dark as in a cupboard or pantry that’s not near the sink and is frequented enough where they won’t be forgotten. A ventilated and dry basement is also a good option.
If they’ve come in plastic bags, transfer the tubers to a paper bag with the top open, a basket, or a mesh sack to allow them to breathe. A closed container will promote moisture and speed their demise.
There’s been some debate about whether potatoes should co-habitate with foods like onions, or ripe avocados, or bananas because of the ripening gases these other foods release. However, storing potatoes with apples, which also produce this ripening agent, ethylene gas, has been shown to inhibit sprouting. Since I frequently store my potatoes with onions, near the bananas—and my potatoes tend to go bad—I’m inclined to think this storage tactic hasn’t been the best option. I think I’ll hedge my bets and keep them living in solitary confinement from now on.
The takeaway? Keep them cool. Keep them dry. Keep them dark. Keep them solo. Consider buying only what your family can realistically eat in a week. But if you still need things to do with those potatoes before they go bad, try these 22 recipes for potato salad.