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How to Store Sweet Potatoes: A Comprehensive Guide for Home Gardeners

Published: 09.04.2023

Learn how to preserve your sweet potatoes after harvest and keep them fresh throughout the winter months. Our guide will show you the best ways to store sweet potatoes to prevent sprouting, keep them from going bad, and make them last as long as possible.

How to Cure and Store Sweet Potatoes After Harvest

What is Curing?

Curing is the process of drying and healing the sweet potato's skin after it has been harvested. This process is crucial for the sweet potato's longevity and flavor. During curing, the sweet potato's skin will harden and thicken, which will prevent moisture loss and prolong its shelf life. Additionally, curing will convert the potato's starch into sugar, which will enhance its sweetness.

How to Cure Sweet Potatoes

The first step in curing sweet potatoes is to keep them in a warm and humid environment for around ten days. The ideal temperature range for curing is between 80-85°F (26-29°C), and the humidity level should be around 90%. You can achieve this by placing the sweet potatoes in a cardboard box or container lined with newspaper or burlap sacks. Make sure to avoid using plastic containers or bags, as they will trap moisture and cause rotting.

After ten days, you should move the sweet potatoes to a cooler and drier location for about a week. The optimal temperature range for storing cured sweet potatoes is between 55-60°F (13-15°C), and the humidity level should be around 75%. You can store them in a well-ventilated pantry or cellar. Make sure to inspect them regularly for signs of spoilage or disease.

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How Long to Cure Sweet Potatoes

The length of time required for curing sweet potatoes can vary depending on several factors such as humidity, temperature, and variety. Generally, curing takes around ten days to two weeks. You should aim for a hard, dry skin that resists scratching before moving the sweet potatoes to storage.

Best Way to Store Sweet Potatoes for Winter

Preparing Sweet Potatoes for Storage

Before storing sweet potatoes for the winter, it is important to ensure that they are in good condition. Start by harvesting your sweet potatoes after the leaves of the plant have died down. Cure them by keeping them in a warm, humid area with temperatures between 80-85°F and a humidity level of 85-90% for about two weeks. This process will allow the sweet potatoes to heal any cuts or bruises and develop a tough skin that will help preserve them during storage.

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Choosing the Best Storage Containers

Selecting the right storage container is crucial to ensuring that your sweet potatoes remain fresh and edible throughout the winter. Choose a container that is well-ventilated to allow air to circulate freely around the sweet potatoes. This will prevent moisture from building up and causing rot. Cardboard boxes or wooden crates are good options for storing sweet potatoes. Avoid using plastic bags or containers as they can trap moisture and promote mold growth.

Temperature and Humidity for Winter Storage

The ideal temperature for storing sweet potatoes is between 55-60°F. Temperatures above this range can cause them to sprout, while lower temperatures can cause the flesh to turn hard and develop a woody texture. Additionally, maintain humidity levels between 85-90% to prevent moisture loss, which can cause them to shrivel and become less flavorful.

How to Store Sweet Potatoes to Prevent Sprouting

Why Do Sweet Potatoes Sprout?

Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable that is commonly found in households. However, sweet potatoes have a tendency to sprout if they are not stored properly. Sweet potato sprouts grow from the "eyes" or nodes on the surface of the sweet potato. These sprouts are not harmful but can make the sweet potato taste bitter and have an unpleasant texture. The reason why sweet potatoes sprout is due to their nature as a living organism. Sweet potatoes store starch in their roots, which is used as energy to grow the sprouts when conditions are suitable for growth.

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How to Stop Sweet Potatoes from Sprouting

The best way to prevent sweet potatoes from sprouting is to store them in a cool, dry, and dark place. The ideal temperature for storing sweet potatoes is around 55°F. The place where you store your sweet potatoes should have good air circulation as well. One way to ensure proper air circulation is by storing your sweet potatoes in a cardboard box with holes punched into it. This will prevent moisture from building up and will keep the sweet potatoes dry.

Another way to prevent sweet potatoes from sprouting is by storing them with an apple or a potato. Apples and potatoes produce ethylene gas, which inhibits the growth of sweet potato sprouts. To use this method, place an apple or potato in the same container as your sweet potatoes.

Use of Chemicals in Preventing Sprouting

Chemicals can be used to prevent sprouting, but they are not recommended for home gardeners. Chemicals such as chlorpropham (CIPC) are commonly used to prevent sprouting in commercially grown sweet potatoes. However, these chemicals can be harmful if not used properly and can leave residue on the sweet potatoes. It's best to stick with natural methods of preventing sprouting when storing your sweet potatoes at home.

How Long Do Sweet Potatoes Last in Storage?

Shelf Life of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a popular vegetable among gardeners because of their sweet and nutty flavor. However, they are also known for their relatively short shelf life. When stored properly, sweet potatoes can last up to six months. However, if not stored properly, they can spoil quickly.

Factors that Affect Sweet Potatoes’ Shelf Life

Several factors can affect the shelf life of sweet potatoes. One of the most important is the storage temperature. Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place with a temperature between 55 and 60°F. If stored at temperatures above 60°F, sweet potatoes can sprout, which can shorten their shelf life.

Another factor that can affect the shelf life of sweet potatoes is moisture. Sweet potatoes should be kept dry to prevent mold growth. If sweet potatoes are stored in a damp environment, they can become slimy and develop mold.

Best Time to Consume Stored Sweet Potatoes

The best time to consume stored sweet potatoes is within three to four months after harvest. At this point, the sweet potatoes will still be firm and flavorful. However, even after four months, sweet potatoes can still be used in cooking, although they may have become softer and may not be as flavorful.

It is essential to inspect stored sweet potatoes regularly and discard any that show signs of mold or rot. It is also important to handle sweet potatoes carefully to prevent bruising, which can lead to spoilage.

How to Store Sweet Potatoes in a Root Cellar

What is a Root Cellar?

A root cellar is a traditional method of storing root vegetables, fruits, and preserves. It is a cool, dark, and humid place where the temperature is usually around 50-60°F. The humidity level in a root cellar should be around 90%. A root cellar can be made in different ways, including underground, in a basement or crawl space, or even in a closet.

Steps in Building a Root Cellar

If you want to build your own root cellar, there are some simple steps you can follow. Firstly, choose a location that is cool, dark, and dry. Next, decide on the type of root cellar you want to build. It can be either an underground or above-ground structure. If you are building an underground cellar, ensure that it has proper ventilation to avoid mold and mildew. The walls and floor of the cellar should be made of concrete or stone to keep it cool. The door should be airtight to keep the humidity level high.

How to Store Sweet Potatoes in a Root Cellar

Sweet potatoes are a great vegetable to store in a root cellar as they can last for up to six months when stored correctly. To store sweet potatoes in a root cellar, follow these steps:

  1. Harvest sweet potatoes when the leaves start to yellow and die back.
  2. Brush off any excess dirt from the sweet potatoes but do not wash them.
  3. Place the sweet potatoes in crates or boxes lined with newspaper or straw.
  4. Store the crates in the root cellar ensuring that they are not touching each other.
  5. Check the sweet potatoes regularly for signs of spoilage.

It is important to note that sweet potatoes should not be stored with other fruits or vegetables as they produce ethylene gas which can cause spoilage. Also, make sure that the temperature and humidity levels in the root cellar are consistent to ensure that the sweet potatoes do not rot or sprout.

How to Keep Sweet Potatoes Fresh

Proper Handling of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a delicious and nutritious vegetable that can be enjoyed in many different ways. But if you don't store them properly, they can quickly spoil and become unusable. To keep sweet potatoes fresh, it's important to handle them with care. When you're purchasing sweet potatoes, look for ones that are firm, with smooth skin and no signs of damage or mold. Once you bring them home, avoid dropping or bruising them.

How to Clean Sweet Potatoes

Before storing sweet potatoes, it's important to clean them properly. Rinse them under cool running water and use a vegetable brush to remove any dirt or debris. Don't use soap or other cleaning products, as these can leave a residue that can affect the flavor of the sweet potatoes. After cleaning, pat the sweet potatoes dry with a clean towel.

Avoiding Moisture

Moisture is the enemy of fresh sweet potatoes, so it's important to store them in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator, as this can cause them to become hard and unpleasant-tasting. Instead, store them in a pantry or other cool, dark place with good air circulation. Make sure that they're not exposed to any sources of moisture, such as a damp floor or nearby sink.

To further protect your sweet potatoes from moisture, consider storing them in a ventilated container or basket. This will help to prevent condensation from forming on the sweet potatoes and keep them fresh for longer. Don't store sweet potatoes near other vegetables that release moisture, such as onions or tomatoes.

By following these simple tips for proper handling and storage of sweet potatoes, you can enjoy this delicious vegetable for weeks or even months to come. With a little bit of care and attention, your sweet potatoes will stay fresh and flavorful for all your favorite recipes.

Final Tips for Storing Sweet Potatoes

Using Freezing Technique

Freezing sweet potatoes is an effective way to store them for a longer period. However, before freezing, it is necessary to cook the sweet potatoes first. Start by peeling and cutting the sweet potatoes into small pieces. Then, boil them in water until they are cooked but still firm. Afterward, drain the water and let the sweet potatoes cool down. Next, place them in an airtight container or freezer bag and label it with the date before placing it in the freezer.

Avoiding Storage with Other Produce

When storing sweet potatoes, avoid keeping them with other produce. Sweet potatoes release ethylene gas, which can cause other fruits and vegetables to ripen and spoil quickly. It is best to store sweet potatoes separately in a cool and dry place, away from other produce.

Checking for Spoilage

It is important to regularly check your stored sweet potatoes for any signs of spoilage. Look for any soft or mushy spots on the surface of the sweet potato, which can indicate rotting. Additionally, if you notice any sprouts growing from your sweet potatoes, it means they are starting to go bad.

Author: Michael Chen
Bio: I'm gardening specialist with a mission to empower people to grow their own fruits and vegetables. With my background in Plant Science from the University of California and experience working with farmers and community gardens, I'm dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture practices and helping individuals achieve bountiful harvests. Let's get growing!