How to Store Potatoes

On one hand, potatoes are pretty easy to store.  But on the other, there are a few things that you need to consider in deciding where to put them.

For the longest life, potatoes need to be stored in a place that’s:

  • Cool
  • Dry
  • Dark
  • Away from onions
  • Not in plastic bags
  • No pressure points (like with wire baskets)

When potatoes are stored in heat and/or light, they start to turn green and/or sprout.  And if potatoes are mixed with onions or stored in plastic bags that can trap humidity, they’ll rot far faster than they would otherwise.  Wire baskets and other containers that put pressure in small areas bruise potatoes and from there, rot will start.

I didn’t know all this when we began cruising, and tossed my onions and potatoes in one big clear plastic bag and stuck it in a gear hammock near the ceiling, next to a very large hatch.  This was in August, in Puerto Vallarta — over 100 degrees outside. Basically, I had violated every “rule.”

And I paid for it.  In a couple of days, I thought I smelled something a little off . . . and the next day noticed some “rot-drops” on the table where they’d seeped out of the plastic bag (yes, the mess wasn’t even contained).  YUCK!

Learn from my experience:  a much better way is to take the potatoes out of any plastic bag and put them in a plastic bin.  The exact size and shape of the bin will vary depending on the space where you intend to put it, but my preference  is for one with a solid bottom (so that if one does rot, the mess doesn’t drip into the rest of the locker) and ventilated sides (for air flow).  I really like the Sterilite ventilated bins as shown in the photo at the top of this article.

I had one under-settee locker that was ventilated, and I kept the bin there.  It was one of the coolest places on the boat as well as being dark and dry.  Potatoes would easily last a couple of months as long as they hadn’t been bruised in the store.  I learned not to even bother to buy any that looked abused — they just didn’t last, and the rot would quickly spread to others.

Potatoes are one of the longest-lasting veggies on a boat, if you are careful in storing them.  Enjoy!

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29 Comments
  • Bob Bechler
    Posted at 11 August 2011 Reply

    The best way I have found is the old fashioned potato sack. Happily I was able to buy some potatoes in Samoa that came in brown burlap bags. I transfer purchases to these bags and they work great.

    Thanks for the tips on recovering ‘sketchy’ potatoes….

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 11 August 2011 Reply

      Great if you can find one . . . I’ll be honest, the last burlap bag I saw was probably 30+ years ago. Glad to hear they are still available in some areas of the world — if you get one, take good care of it!

      • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
        Posted at 28 March 2014 Reply

        I think you can get burlap bags at Southern States and at Tractor Supply. You can certainly get them on Amazon.

      • Cynthia Cle
        Posted at 06 January 2017 Reply

        Why not buy some burlap and sew up a bag!

  • Sailing Anastasia on Facebook
    Posted at 14 January 2012 Reply

    How timely! I was just looking for a new way to store my spuds!

  • PacificSailors on Facebook
    Posted at 14 January 2012 Reply

    Perfect! Thank you! Not a day goes by without a potato being eaten aboard Camille.

  • PacificSailors on Facebook
    Posted at 12 June 2012 Reply

    It seems to me that those really light yellow, almost white potatoes last a lot longer than russets and other brown potatoes. Has anyone else found this to be true?

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 13 June 2012 Reply

    You know, I hadn’t thought about that . . . used to buy the really light ones often but haven’t seen them in the store for a while. I’m going to have to look!

  • Sarah and Ben (@BlueWaterDreamn)
    Posted at 24 January 2013 Reply

    is heading off right now to get her potatoes out of the plastic bag!
    Thanks for the tips!

  • Krissy
    Posted at 25 March 2013 Reply

    I have never in my life seen potatoes in a burlap sack… but I have seen many burlap sacks used in making pottery, perhaps finding a location near you that does this would be helpful? They could direct you where to find them, or perhaps give up some old ones? Clay is just dirt after all right?

  • Jacques Landry
    Posted at 04 May 2013 Reply

    Krissy, you must be very young, as just 20 years ago one could not buy large quantities of potatoes that were not a burlap bag ! 50 pound bags were the norm! You can find rice from India or China in a burlap bag in any ethnic store, and even at Costco, Sam and the likes. You can also find “hemp” bag in many places in the US and Canada and they are just like burlap bags. Look at the onlinefabricstore on the web, they have burlap bags.

    Thanks for all the fun and instructive posts ! Really enjoying this.

  • Linda Nagle
    Posted at 31 October 2013 Reply

    Why is it important not to store potatoes and onions side by side? I have two plastic bin side by side, one for potatoes and one for onions. I never store them in the same bin. Is this ok?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 31 October 2013 Reply

      For some reason, when they are mixed together or very close, the potatoes tend to rot faster than they would otherwise.

  • ron guetlein
    Posted at 02 December 2013 Reply

    Most of your small towns have feed stores, that is where I have been buying burlap bags for years.

  • gene koblick
    Posted at 30 December 2013 Reply

    When we cruised the Sea of Cortez, I would wet my burlap bags and cover the fresh fish we caught. Cooled them off and kept them in good condition for eating. Then I used to buy 2 kilo’s of shrimp, fresh off the boats and pigged out on shrimp and cervasa. We spent 2 years in the Sea. Owned a Palapa at what was Playa Santespec

  • Colin Mombourquette
    Posted at 28 March 2014 Reply

    More great advice, was aware of storing potatoes in the dark but not to avoid storing them with onions – will keep them separated until they go into the stew together.

  • Paula Richard
    Posted at 20 October 2015 Reply

    Great rules. Add one more. Toss an apple in with the stored potatoes to further inhibit sprouting.

    • D and Don
      Posted at 26 July 2016 Reply

      Thanks, I always learn something new here.

  • Julie Anne
    Posted at 20 October 2015 Reply

    Damn! I too keep them with my onions. 🙁 ..not anymore! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 20 October 2015 Reply

    What about bugs (roaches, ants)? Will they find the open container of food too appealing to resist?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 21 October 2015 Reply

      I’ve never had a problem with potatoes or the other fruits and veggies that I store outside the refrig — they all need ventilation to stay dry.

  • sharon
    Posted at 21 October 2015 Reply

    the apple works great, it allows them to be kept for ages.

  • Tiffany Levesque
    Posted at 26 July 2016 Reply

    I usually buy discarded burlap sacks from our local coffee roaster. All of her beans are imported from many of the countries popular with cruisers. Most are large enough to make at least 2-3 smaller bags. Plus they just look cool.
    Thank you for all the awesome tips!
    Tiffany
    S/V Symbion

  • charlie Jones
    Posted at 26 July 2016 Reply

    just a note. Red potatoes keep longer than white ones

  • D and Don
    Posted at 26 July 2016 Reply

    What about sweet potatoes? Do the same rules apply?

    Thanks!

  • Robin Bean
    Posted at 28 July 2016 Reply

    years ago when i lived aboard I would use a bucket with water and about a 1/4 cup of bleach to 2-3 gallons of water and soak for a short time all vegtables then wipe them down and store the blaech kills all surface bacteria that promote spoilage

  • Georgia
    Posted at 06 October 2016 Reply

    If potatoes and onions are in different cardboard boxes next to each other would they keep ok??

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 06 October 2016 Reply

      It’s better if they are further, but the reality is that mine are usually in plastic bins next to each other simply because that’s how the space works. It’s definitely better than putting them in the same bin, I’ve learned!

  • Harold Delk
    Posted at 05 May 2017 Reply

    I’m not a boater, but have a small RV. The main reason not to store onions in proximity to potatoes is gases from the onions can hasten sprouting in potatoes; also onions exude moisture which hastens the rotting process. Found an inexpensive way to store them by using two bamboo steamer baskets stored a few feet apart. Space in a Class B RV is as precious as on a boat. Humidity varies though as, except for ferries, we are seldom on the water. The baskets can be used for cooking as well and returned to storage service after they dry completely. The steamer we use for onions we cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom to contain the onion skins which can cause a bit of a mess.

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