Potatoes are a staple in many kitchens because they are as durable as they are versatile. To keep them fresh, store potatoes in an open container that allows air to circulate in your pantry or another dark place that is cool, dry, and dark. Most varieties will last for a month, though “new” potatoes (ones that have been pulled without fully developing—usually if you have your own garden) should be used within one week. Keep them out of the refrigerator to reduce their natural starches from turning into sugar. Also, don’t store them near apples or onions, which release gasses that encourage spoilage.
Choose the Freshest Potatoes
The fresher your potatoes are when you bring them home, the longer they’ll last. The color of the skin makes no difference as to safe storage, but the type of potato does. “New” potatoes of all colors are simply potatoes harvested before they were allowed to reach full maturity. Their skins are generally thin and smooth, and when fresh should contain no blemishes. All-purpose and baking potatoes tend to be much larger and have thicker skins. All types of potatoes should be firm, and show no cuts, bruises, or sprouts.
Visible Signs of Aging
Potato skin shows its age just like humans; it wrinkles, sags, and develops spots. While these are human indications of a life well-lived, on potatoes they are warning signs. A little bit of aging won’t change the taste of potatoes too much, but it’s best to toss ones that have wrinkly, sagging skin, and a mushy feel.
The Scent of Spoilage
Fresh potatoes have an earthy, starchy scent. When they start to go bad, this scent changes and becomes bitter and moldy. Sometimes potatoes will look OK on the outside but have turned rotten on the inside. If you come across a potato in the grocery that looks fine but smells wrong, skip it! If the same thing happens at home, simply cut it open to see if the spoiled spot is small enough to be cut out and trashed, or if the whole potato is a dud.
Shoots and Green Spots
Potatoes don’t become completely inert after being harvested, so they often develop little sprouts called “eyes.” This is especially true of organically grown or farm-stand potatoes, because many mass-produced supermarket potatoes are treated with a chemical that delays sprouting. Remove small sprouts before cooking the potato if it looks and smells fresh otherwise. Potatoes with long sprouts along with other signs of aging should be tossed. Green spots develop just before sprouts appear. These spots contain a mild toxin, so small ones can be cut off, but a potato with large areas of green is no good.