This Southern staple can be a bit tricky to store. Read on to find out how to make sure your sweet potatoes stay fresh for as long as possible.

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It’s second nature to store fresh produce in your refrigerator, but not all of your fruits and vegetables enjoy being chilled. Like sweet potatoes, for instance.

These delicious root vegetables thrive in warm weather, which is why they grow abundantly throughout the South. Once harvested, sweet potatoes must be “cured”, or left to dry in a dark place for several weeks. The curing process prevents the potatoes from shrinking too quickly as they age and converts the potatoes’ natural starches to sugars, which gives the potatoes their signature sweet flavor.

Watch: How to Make Sweet Potato Pound Cake

Curing must be done in a temperature-controlled environment. According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, if the storage space is too cold (below 55 degrees), the centers of the potatoes will develop hard, white spots. If it’s too warm (about 60 degrees), the potatoes may soften and shrivel and start to sprout. (If this happens, toss them out.)

Even after they have been cured and shipped off to grocery stores and farmers’ markets, sweet potatoes still need to be stored in a place that’s not too cold or too warm. Avoid placing them in the refrigerator, which can affect their flavor and cause them to turn hard on the inside. Warm places like sunny countertops may cause the potatoes to sprout.

Your best bet is to keep them in the pantry or a kitchen cabinet, or down in the basement in a basket or a bag. If stored properly, raw sweet potatoes can last for up to a month.

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