When it comes to eating potatoes fresh from the garden, many people wonder if potatoes need to be cured before they can be eaten. The short answer is no, potatoes do not have to be cured before eating. However, curing potatoes does help improve their storage life and flavor.
What is curing potatoes?
Curing potatoes is the process of storing freshly harvested potatoes in a dark, warm, humid environment for 1-2 weeks after digging them up. This allows the potato skin to thicken, wounds to heal over, and sugars to convert to starch. It helps extend the dormancy period of the potatoes before they begin sprouting.
Curing works by triggering the production of ‘suberin’ in the potato skin. Suberin is a waxy substance that acts as a protective barrier against moisture loss and disease. The warm temperatures encourage suberin development. The high humidity prevents the tubers from shriveling up and losing moisture during the curing process.
Benefits of curing potatoes
Here are some of the main benefits of curing potatoes:
- Thicker, tougher skins – Curing produces a thicker, more rugged skin that offers better protection in storage.
- Longer dormancy period – The healed skins and converted sugars delay sprouting for longer storage.
- Improved disease resistance – Increased suberin levels lock in moisture and prevent disease entry.
- Better flavor – Cured potatoes develop a richer, sweeter flavor as starches convert to sugars.
- Reduced shrinkage – A good cure prevents excess moisture loss so potatoes keep their size.
- Less bruising and impact damage – Tougher skins prevent bruises during washing and handling.
By curing your potato crop properly, you can enjoy well-protected, great tasting potatoes for months after harvest.
Best practices for curing potatoes
Follow these tips for successfully curing your fresh potato harvest:
- Allow potatoes to dry in the garden for 2-3 hours after digging them up. This prevents rotting during the curing process.
- Gently brush off loose soil but don’t wash the potatoes. You want the natural skin coat intact for the cure.
- Keep potatoes between 60-70°F with 80-95% relative humidity. Monitor conditions with a thermometer/hygrometer.
- Place a single layer of potatoes in trays, crates or mesh bags. Avoid piling them up.
- Keep potatoes in complete darkness. Light can trigger early sprouting and turn potatoes green.
- Circulate air around the potatoes to prevent condensation and disease issues.
- Cure potatoes for 1-2 weeks. Check skins for thickness after one week.
- Store cured potatoes in a cool (40-50°F), humid, dark place for long-term storage.
The curing process helps heal wounds, increase disease resistance, and prepare the potatoes for optimum storage. Taking the time to properly cure potatoes helps maximize both their flavor and shelf life.
Do I need to cure potatoes if I’m eating them right away?
Freshly harvested potatoes that will be consumed immediately do not necessarily need to be cured. Curing is more important for long term storage. However, curing freshly dug potatoes for about a week can still improve their flavor.
Without curing, the potatoes may have thinner skins, be more prone to bruising, and have a less developed flavor. The raw peeled potatoes also tend to discolor and oxidize faster. Overall though, fresh uncured potatoes are perfectly safe to cook and eat right away.
Can I skip curing if I’m freezing or canning potatoes?
Potatoes destined for short term storage via freezing, dehydrating or canning also do not require curing beforehand. Since they will be processed for preservation soon after harvest, you can bypass the curing steps.
In fact, curing is not recommended if the potatoes will be peeled, cut up and frozen soon after digging. The extra handling during curing may introduce more opportunities for bruising. For immediate use in cooking, freezing or canning, simply allow freshly dug potatoes to dry for a few hours before processing them.
Do specific potato varieties need to be cured?
Potato varieties with thinner or more delicate skins tend to benefit the most from curing. Heirloom and specialty potato varieties are often less rugged than commercial varieties bred for durable skins.
Below are some heirloom and gourmet varieties that really shine after curing:
- Russian Banana – Waxy, golden fingerlings with creamy texture.
- La Ratte – Nutty, firm fingerlings from France.
- Purple Peruvian – Vivid purple color, dense meaty flesh.
- Yukon Gold – Thin skins but rich, creamy taste when cured.
- French Fingerling – Smooth, tender petite fingers.
- Ruby Crescent -Pretty pink skin, moist yellow interior.
Standard russet, red or white commercial potatoes have been bred for tough protective skins and long storage. They can still benefit from curing but don’t require it as much as delicate heirloom types.
Curing freshly harvested potatoes by storing them in a warm, humid environment for 1-2 weeks can significantly improve their storage life, texture, and flavor. However, curing is not strictly necessary if the potatoes will be consumed right away.
While curing does provide definite benefits, uncured fresh potatoes are still perfectly good to eat immediately after digging. So if you’re impatient to sample those homegrown potatoes, go right ahead and dig in! Just keep the cured ones for enjoying later after their flavor has had time to develop.
As long as you handle the fresh potatoes gently to avoid bruises and scrapes, you don’t have to wait to try your hand grown harvest. But taking the time to cure potatoes destined for long term storage will help maximize their quality and shelf life.
So consider whether it’s worth curing your potato crop if you plan to store them for several months. But for fresh eating, freezing or canning within days after harvesting, curing is an optional extra step.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do my potatoes need to be cured?
Curing helps heal scrapes and bruises, thickens the skin, converts starches to sugars, and lengthens dormancy for better storage ability. It gives potatoes time to fully prepare for long term storage after being freshly dug from the ground.
How long does it take to cure potatoes?
Curing potatoes takes 1-2 weeks in a dark, warm (60-70°F), humid (80-95% RH) environment. Check skins after 1 week – if skins are thickened and scrapes healed over, they are cured.
Can I cure potatoes after storage?
No, potatoes should be cured immediately after harvest before long term storage. Curing them after storage will just accelerate sprouting. The curing conditions need to be carefully controlled and timed right after digging them up.
What happens if you don’t cure potatoes?
Without curing, potatoes won’t store as long, may shrivel faster, be more prone to bruising, rot quicker, sprout earlier, and their flavor won’t fully develop. Curing helps maximize their quality.
Do sweet potatoes need to be cured?
No, sweet potatoes do not need to be cured. They do not form a protective cured skin like regular potatoes. After digging sweet potatoes, just gently handle, dry, and store them.
Can I prepare cured potatoes right away?
Yes, after the curing period you can cook and eat the potatoes whenever you want. The potatoes will just last longer in storage if you wait to use them until needed.
Curing Conditions by Geographic Location
The specific temperature and humidity needed for curing potatoes can vary depending on your local climate conditions. Here are general guidelines for different geographic regions:
|Location||Temperature Range||Humidity Range|
|Northern States||65-75°F||85-95% RH|
|Southern States||60-70°F||80-90% RH|
|Coastal Regions||60-65°F||80-85% RH|
|Arid Mountain States||68-75°F||85-90% RH|
Monitor temperatures and humidity carefully during curing to find the optimal ranges for your specific area. Ventilation should be provided to prevent condensation buildup.
Troubleshooting Curing Problems
Here are some common curing issues and how to prevent them:
Problem: Potatoes rotting and shriveling during curing
– Cause: Temperatures too high or humidity too low
– Solution: Lower temp to 60-70°F and increase humidity to 80-95% RH
Problem: Potatoes sprouting early
– Cause: Too much light exposure
– Solution: Keep potatoes in complete darkness during curing
Problem: Odd flavors developing
– Cause: Insufficient air circulation
– Solution: Improve air flow around potatoes
Problem: Condensation building up
– Cause: Lack of ventilation
– Solution: Allow more air circulation and ventilation
Problem: Skins not thickening
– Cause: Curing duration too short
– Solution: Cure potatoes for a full 2 weeks
There are a few different methods that can be used to cure potatoes after harvesting them:
Curing in Trays or Crates
– Place potatoes in single layers in trays or wooden crates
– Keep in basement, shed, or garage under controlled curing conditions
– Turn potatoes every few days to evenly cure skins
Curing in Mesh Bags
– Put potatoes in mesh, burlap or paper bags
– Hang bags in environment meeting curing needs
– Allows air circulation while retaining high humidity
Curing in Mounds
– Keep potatoes loosely piled in mounds on garage or basement floor
– Cover mounds with moist burlap sacks, towels or blankets
– Helps retain humidity while allowing some air movement
Curing in Root Cellars
– Take advantage of cool, humid conditions in root cellars
– Spread out potatoes in single depth crates or trays
– Root cellars provide ideal curing environment
Monitor temperatures and humidity during curing and adjust conditions as needed. Turning the potatoes helps the skins cure evenly.
Storing Cured Potatoes
Once cured, potatoes should be moved to ideal long term storage conditions. Keep them in complete darkness to prevent greening. Some good storage tips include:
- Maintain temperatures around 40-50°F to keep potatoes dormant.
- Keep humidity between 80-90% to avoid shriveling.
- Use slatted crates, boxes, or trays to allow air circulation.
- Inspect potatoes periodically and remove any rotten ones.
- Keep potatoes away from apples, which give off ethylene gas that accelerates sprouting.
- Enjoy stored cured potatoes within 5-8 months for best quality.
With proper curing and ideal storage conditions, a well-tended potato crop can provide months of delicious spuds beyond the growing season!