Potatoes are a fairly inexpensive food staple to buy at the grocery store. Why bother growing them, and even more so, why bother creating a storage system in your home? There are many reasons, beginning with the idea that home grown simply tastes better. Many gardeners enjoy growing and eating as a fun hobby. It is also nice to be able to save money. However, there are some disquieting reasons to learn techniques in growing and storing food.
There are over one hundred potato varieties available, according to http://www.potatogarden.com, who sells many of them. In the grocery store there are only a few varieties, known to us by color of all things- red, white, gold, and brown. There are also a few varieties marketed as “gourmet”, so they can fetch a premium price. This can certainly benefit a consumer through satisfying certain standards in price, availability, and food preparation expectations. It also benefits the food industry as monoculture farming can produce greater yields and earn more profit. This in turn will benefit pesticide, herbicide, fertilizer, and trucking companies as well. Growing one’s own potatoes will reduce that little bit of one’s “environmental footprint”. It will also grow an appreciation for the diversity and history of available potatoes.
It is unsettling to realize the disconnect between so many people in our country and how food is produced. I remember reading that people in the Great Depression survived because most families kept a few chickens. Today, government welfare programs are the only protection many people possess against hunger as a result of some personal catastrophic loss. With such governmental programs funding cuts, better protection might lie in skills that enable one to offset the costs in feeding a family through home gardening.
So how does one store potatoes at home? The best bet is to grow a “late” potato variety like Kennebec, which is commanly found in garden centers. (There are many other late varieties available from catalogs.) When it is time for harvest, take care in curing the potatoes and ensuring only that the most blemish free tubers are stored. While commercial potatoes are stored at 35-40 degrees and 90% humidity, it may not be necessary for such perfection at home. Store them in an unheated garage, on a wall shared with the house. Make sure they have good air circulation. Check them periodically to make sure they remain blemish free, and eat up any that don’t seem as firm and healthy as when originally stored. Of course, do enjoy eating those home grown potatoes throughout the winter!