As a hearty root vegetable, sweet potatoes are relatively easy to store, according to agronomist Benson Kimani. He says it’s best to store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place with good ventilation.
You really shouldn’t store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator if you plan to eat them within the next month, as refrigeration can cause a hard center and unpleasant-tasting flesh. They will technically last longer if refrigerated, they just won’t taste good.
Sweet potatoes can last for several months when stored properly, but you must carefully follow proper storage procedures to prevent them from bruising or spoiling. Here’s what you need to know about storing sweet potatoes at room temperature and at freezer temperature, as advised by Kimani.
Use fresh, meaty sweet potatoes
Meaty sweet potatoes hold up just as well as thin potatoes and they have more usable meat to consume.
Select only healthy sweet potatoes for storage, as it is easy for pests to move from rotten to healthy yams.
When harvesting sweet potatoes yourself, use a spade fork to dig 10-15 cm below the ground to get all the roots.
“Handle them with care, as sweet potatoes tend to bruise easily, and shake off excess dirt, but don’t wash the roots,” he says.
Be sure to store your sweet potatoes in a place that has access to fresh air, as yams can rot when they don’t get enough fresh air.
Let the sweet potatoes harden for about a week or two
You can also do drying to prevent the potatoes from losing water during handling, storage and marketing.
Keep the roots in a room or other location that reaches 24-27 degrees Celsius with a relative humidity of 90-95%.
“Sweet potatoes need to dry for at least seven days, but they can be stored there for up to 14 days,” Kimani explains.
The drying process creates a second skin that forms over scratches and bruises, allowing the sweet potatoes to last longer in storage.
Use a small electric fan in the area to maintain air circulation. This helps prevent rot and mold.
Regularly monitor the temperature and humidity to make sure the sweet potatoes are in the conditions necessary for proper drying.
Keep the sweet potatoes from touching each other while they harden, for best results.
Store in a cool, dark place.
For best results, store sweet potatoes in a basement or root cellar. If neither option is available to you, store them in a dark, cool, well-ventilated closet or pantry away from strong heat sources.
Do not use a refrigerator.
Frequently monitor the temperature to make sure it does not fall below or exceed the recommended range.
Stored in this manner, sweet potatoes can be stored for up to six months. Carefully remove them from storage to avoid bruising.
“Other methods of storing sweet potatoes is to leave your potatoes in the ridges after they mature. Although there are pros and cons to this. Using potato barns is the one of the most recommended methods because they do not rot quickly because they are lifted from the ground in the barn,” says Kimani.
Silos can also be used but this method is not really recommended because it does not leave enough room for sufficient ventilation.
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