You Might Be Storing Your Sweet Potatoes Wrong

You know how to cook sweet potatoes—but do you know how to store them?

Fall is prime time for sweet potatoes. It just so happens that right around the time you might be craving a slice of sweet potato pie or a steaming hot baked sweet potato, or need to make your signature sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving dinner, a new crop of sweet Southern-grown tubers is in season. Sweet potatoes are typically harvested at the end of September and early October, then cured for several weeks, which naturally converts the potatoes' natural starch into sugar.

In addition to being extremely nutritious and versatile, unwashed sweet potatoes can also keep for months if stored properly. This is where so many of us go wrong. Like other root vegetables and tubers, sweet potatoes are best stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Which, to most people, means the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. Here's what you may be doing wrong and how to store your sweet potatoes properly.

Never Store in the Refrigerator

According to sweet potato experts including the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, refrigerating sweet potatoes is a no-no. Your refrigerator is actually too cool and can change the cell structure of the potatoes, making them hard in the center with white spots. Refrigeration can diminish the flavor of sweet potatoes as well. Ventilation is another key to properly storing sweet potatoes—another strike against the crisper drawer.

Choose a Dark Place

Instead, keep your sweet potatoes in a paper bag or basket in a kitchen cabinet, pantry, or basement. Choose a cabinet that's not near the heat of your oven, and a spot closer to the floor will be cooler. Sweet potatoes prefer a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees. This is the best way to store them for longer lengths of time. With proper storage, they should last a month.

If sweet potatoes don't last very long in your house, you can also do as I do, and place them in a bowl in a cool spot on your kitchen counter, away from windows. Heat and sunlight will cause your potatoes to sprout.

Beware of Other Produce

You can store your sweet potatoes with other types of potatoes, but don't store them with other produce like onions or garlic that prefer a similar storage environment. They may give off gases that make your sweet potatoes sprout faster.

Don't Rinse

Wait to wash your sweet potatoes until you are ready to use them. The moisture could cause them to rot and lead to mold. If you'd like, use a dry cloth to brush off any dirt before storing, especially if it will dirty up your shelf or cabinet.

Cook Before Freezing

Raw sweet potatoes don't thaw well. It's a watery, stringy disappointment. If you don't think you can use your sweet potatoes before they'll go bad, clean and cut them into slices or chunks. Boil the pieces until tender, about 10 minutes. You can then cool and bag the frozen pieces, or mash the potatoes to bag and freeze for later.

Fresher-tasting sweet potatoes and more refrigerator space—that's a win-win.

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