How and Where to Store Sweet Potatoes
Botanical Names: Ipomoea batatas
The best way to store sweet potatoes is to select an area that is dry and cool. Those areas that come to mind for storing sweet potatoes in the home include a garage, basement or cellar. It is important to meet these environmental conditions or it could result in your harvest becoming rotted or sprouted.
Some recommend washing and rinsing potatoes prior to storage. This could easily lead to rot, with too much moisture left on the sweet potatoes. If the dirt on the sweet potatoes is an issue with storing, use a dry cloth to remove any excess dirt after harvesting. If you have mistakenly pierced any of your potatoes while harvesting, do not fret. The potatoes will naturally heal themselves while in the curing process.
Cool conditions do not mean refrigerated. Typical home basement temperatures can range between 70 to 65 degrees during the fall and winter months with heat going. The curing time will range from 15 to 35 days. During the curing processes, the sweet potatoes will develop a more pronounced taste that is very sweet. It is important to cure only for a certain period so that potatoes do not start to sprout and actively grow. You want all the energy to go into resting and curing.
Once curing is completed, placing your sweet potatoes in a cooler environment (preferably 55 to 65 degrees) with high humidity will help them preserve and stay fresh for use through the winter months. Many prefer to place the sweet potatoes in brown paper bags to optimize storage. Typically, four to six months of storage is the longest they will last.
Importantly, do not store your sweet potatoes near certain other vegetables as the sweet potatoes can cause the others to ripen more quickly than preferred. Take onions, for example, they are wonderful companions when combined in dishes, but if stored together the gases from the onion can actually cause the potato to spoil and sprout more quickly. Other vegetables and fruits that can cause early sprouting consist of bananas and apples.
For cooking, simply rinse and scrub the potato before using. To bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, pierce the skin with a fork, coat with olive oil, place on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 to 60 minutes. Do not wrap in aluminum foil, being unwrapped causes the potato’s sugar to caramelize.
If your sweet potatoes do begin to sprout, simply cook them until soft and then freeze them. Make sure to cool prior to packing cooked sweet potatoes in plastic freezer bags. Measuring several cups per freezer bag and labeling them with the measurement will help with cooking dishes when using in the future. When needed, simply pull out of the freezer the amount needed for your desired recipe. Preferred defrosting would be to leave at room temperature until soft, but microwave or stove defrosting is possible as well.
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