Friday, April 24, 2009

Food News



Maximize the Shelf Life of Home-stored Potatoes

TWIN FALLS--They live. They breathe. And because they’re 80 percent water, potato tubers thrive in humid locations. Take heed, consumers wondering about the best spots in your homes to store your potatoes.

Cooperative research by University of Idaho Extension scientists and College of Southern Idaho students has confirmed that the optimum sites for home-stored potatoes are cool, dark and ventilated rooms, closets, cabinets and garages. In studies conducted in their own residences, the agricultural science students also found that the perforated plastic bags used in many groceries offer the best environment for extending shelf-life.

Potatoes stored inside these bags in unheated areas of the students’ homes benefited from a relatively cool average temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit and a relatively high average humidity of 67 percent. They shrank just 0.9 percent—only slightly more than the 0.6 percent weight loss measured in commercially stored potatoes kept at 45 degrees Fahrenheit and 95 percent relative humidity at the University of Idaho’s Potato Storage Facility at Kimberly. Potatoes on countertops, in refrigerators and under the sink fared considerably worse.

Nora Olsen, co-author of the University of Idaho Extension’s recently released publication, “Options for Storing Potatoes at Home,” said she was a “little surprised” by how well the perforated plastic bags held in humidity and held down tuber shrinkage. The four-page publication can be downloaded from the Educational Communications catalog on the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Web site, http://www.info.ag.uidaho.edu/.

According to lead author and Extension support scientist Lynn Woodell, if you only buy enough potatoes to eat within a few days, you can store them almost anywhere in your home as long as you keep them out of the light. But if you buy or harvest between several pounds and several hundred pounds, your choice of location can clearly affect the potatoes’ long-term usability. Warm temperatures encourage sprouting and tuber disease, cold temperatures cause spuds to turn brown when fried, exposure to light prompts greening, sealed plastic containers starve tubers of oxygen and dry environments are downright withering.

Woodell and Olsen recommend storing potatoes in an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage insulated to protect against freezing or in an extra refrigerator whose temperature can be set a few degrees higher than normal.

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