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The potato plight

October 14, 2010
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere

I started to write about some other topic this week until I had something rather unusual happen in my own garden. And as luck had it this past weekend, I ran into another fellow Master Gardener after church and found out she was having the same dilemma as I was having in the vegetable garden: rotting and "bug" infested potatoes.

This past year I raised two varieties of potatoes, Yukon golds and Russets. The Russet potatoes, overall, were not suffering from the same plight as the Yukon gold potatoes were. The heavy rains that we all went through a couple of week ago, I believe were just too much for my potatoes. I was amazed as we went to dig just one egg basket (which holds about 20-25 pounds of potatoes, how many were rotting from the ends.

I usually wait until MEA weekend to dig my potatoes but this was concerning me so much that we started to gather as many of our containers as possible and just kept right on digging them up this weekend.

I believe that since they are dug, we washed them very carefully, and then left them to dry on the sidewalk, they will be OK. I believe there are going to be a few days that we will be eating fresh potatoes but we are OK with that since we are all fans of fresh potatoes in the house.

I understand that there are many others out there are having problems with their potatoes rotting in the ground as well.

I was not sure what to expect when I went to dig them this past weekend. I was more afraid that they were going to be sprouting. I have had instances where you can cut off the spoiled end of the potato and then let the remaining potato dry over. The potato would be just fine. This is something that perhaps you will not hear in many professionally written papers but comes from those who have been gardening much, much longer then I have. I am a rookie compared to some of the 80-plus-year-old gardeners that have become my mentors and friends. Since, most of the time, you will hear that we should just throw out spoiled produce, I offer a second chance to those, who like me, can not waste things quite so easily. My husband and I have carefully washed off what we did so far manage to get dug this past weekend. The potatoes are sitting in a shaded part of the yard, fairly clean and drying. We often call this curing them. I will have to go through the process of going through them to make sure that any that are questionable, will be put in the "to be eaten now pile," however.

Tuber skins should be difficult to rub off with your thumb. If not, place harvested potatoes in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area to allow skin to set and wounds to heal before storing in a cool (40-50 F), dark, moist (90 percent relative humidity) area. Do not wash tubers before long-term storage to avoid injuring the skin. At storage temperatures of 40 F, starch in tubers can be converted to sugars, especially in russet-type potatoes.

This can cause tubers to turn brown when fried or to have an unusually sweet flavor.

Some varieties can reconvert sugar to starch if tubers are held at room temperature for a day or two. Cut off any green areas before cooking potatoes. Good luck digging your potatoes.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at



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