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 are 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. Which 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.
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.
Instead, keep your sweet potatoes in a basket in a kitchen cabinet or basement. This is the best way to store them for longer lengths of time. 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.
Fresher-tasting sweet potatoes and more refrigerator space—that's a win-win.