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Where & how do you keep your potatoes & onions

I have tried many places in my kitchen/pantry and many dif containers. I am never satisfied. I have looked for quality 'potato keepers' on the internet and found nothing that impressed me. I know that kept under optimal conditions potatoes shd keep well for a long time (look at the early Americans with their root cellars!). At any time, I could have several varieties of potatoes and onions in the house, but often find (or smell) rotten ones. I have a wonderful antique wire hanger with 3 baskets, but the light gets to the potatoes and they sprout or green. I cover them with towels but that is not perfect. i tried keeping them all in their separate brown paper bags - that doesn't work for me, it's out of sight - out of mind... then they rot because I forget what's in all those bags or under those towels. I have a pantry between the kitchen and garage but it is only cool during the winter months, it becomes very warm in the summer. And I do not co-mingle the potatoes and onions.

I'd love to hear of how other chowhounds protect their potatoes and onions for best keeping quality. Thanks!

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  1. Mine are co-mingled - at least on either side of a single large (about 1-1/2' wide) plastic storage bin (kinda like what college students might use for sweaters or t-shirts) in a gap under the stairs going down into the basement. It can get warm down there in the summer, so I tend to buy fewer potatoes at a time in the summer. But otherwise, the cooler months, they seem to hold pretty well, even being separated by only about 6" or so.

    1. I use alot of onions (3-4 a week), so long term storage does not come into play. I store them on top of my fridge.

      As an Irish-American, potatoes are another staple I use quickly, so they also live on top of the fridge for the short time they are around in my house.

      1. I keep them out of their plastic bags just out on my counter...The onions tend to last the longest...I really don't expect the potatoes to last more than a few days or so...after that they get a bit soft for my taste...If I am going to makes potatoes, I generally buy them just a couple of days in advance......

        1. I have a small apartment kitchen with very limited counter space and overflowing cabinets, so I keep them in a French-type string grocery bag that hangs from a hook beneath my butcher-block table, which is also my cutting board. It doesn't keep them as cool as they should be, but it does keep them to hand and pretty much out of the light.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JoanN

            Sounds like my kitchen! My sink is in the corner of my kitchen, and so behind it I have triangular shaped stacking metal mesh baskets that I use.

          2. For onions and smaller potatoes, a great storage tool is a large bamboo steamer set on the counter top. It is able to keep air circulating and keeps them cool and dark. So, if you live somewhere near an Asian grocery or restaurant supply, you can get 2- one for each item- pretty cheap.

            Putting onions in the fridge does something strange to sugars and it just doesn't taste right to me.

            1 Reply
            1. re: charlottecooks

              I really like this idea. Due to my kitchens lengthly list of quirks, this seems to be the most workable idea for me. Thanks!

            2. I have been keeping them loose in a basket in a cupboard underneath my sink. Now I got a nice wooden carved wine box and they will move there in a while. The box will be placed on an open bottom shelf of a cupboard ( I saw it at somebody's house-it looks really great if you have a combination of various onion types and potatoes).

              1. We live in a old (110 y/o) which has a pantry room off the kitchen. It is underinsulated, with a heavily shaded and curtained window, so it is virtually a buttery. I Can keep butter on the counter in there and it stays spreadable without getting too soft. This is where I keep all my cooking oils, vinegars, canned beans, unopened condiments, dry pastas, crackers, etc. I have a standing wire rack with 6 compartments and a top shelf. Bottom is for wines, others are for potatoes, usually three different varieties, various onions, and garlic - which I buy like an obsessed person. On the top shelf of this unit is a large handwoven basket which holds breads... the shelf itself is where I keep fresh tomatoes. All these items last approx. 2 - 3 weeks at least.
                .

                1 Reply
                1. re: Gio

                  I use a Taiwanese fruit and vegetable strainer basket from Ranch Market 99. It's like a wide, shallow plastic sieve that fits into a tray with a slight gap in between that allows air to circulate. I cover that with a domed wok lid. Similar to the steamer basket idea above, but the fitted tray catches debris. Very cheap and effective.

                2. I keep my onions in a wire basket that hangs on a hook in a place just out-of-the-way enough to keep an eye on their condition. I used to keep them in a plastic grocery bag, just to keep the brown skins from littering the floor, but that led to rot and mildew, so now I just clean them off well before they go in the basket. We don't eat a lot of potatoes these days, so I usually get just enough for a single meal, but when I'm keeping some around (like during the holidays) I just keep them in a paper bag in the laundry room, where it's cool and dry most of the time.

                  When we were visiting a smallish chateau in France, we did a full tour of the house one day, starting in the wine cellar and ending up in the cavernous attic. Several shelves in the cellar were given over to an immense number of potatoes, spread out in a single layer and apparently keeping very well, while an open space on the attic floor was similarly home to a large stock of onions. Now, THAT'S storage!

                  1. jfood has a drawer dedicated to these, about 8-10" deep.

                    It is broken into four sub-compartments. jfood keeps his onions, shallots, potatoes, garlic and the like in this drawer.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      onions in the fridge, we go through them fast, and potatoes in the pantry on a wire thingy, but always in the dark.

                      1. re: smartie

                        Just curious: why do you put your onions in the fridge? They keep perfectly well at room temp -- better, because they're less likely to get moldy (although if you go through them fast, it doesn't matter one way or the other).

                        I keep mine loose in the bottom drawer in my kitchen cabinets -- seems to work fine for up to a month for my potatoes (my onions never stay around that long).

                    2. From the National Potato Council...

                      "They should be stored in a cool, dry environment with good ventilation. Paper bags, cardboard boxes, and pantries are good places to store them. An ideal temperature for storage would be between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid storing them in plastic bags or in refrigerators and make sure the environment is not too warm."

                      And from the National Onion Association...

                      Store your onions in a cool, dry, ventilated place - not in the refrigerator. Do not store whole onions in plastic bags. Lack of air movement reduces storage life. Chopped or sliced onions can be stored in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: crt

                        jfood always loves these items for a good laugh. Let's try to figure out where in the house (CT in jfood's case) is 45-55 degrees.

                        - Obvious first choice is kitchen. great bring the temperature down in the kitchen to 55 for the taters
                        - Garage? Getting closer, but jfood's garage even in dead of winter rarely gets below 55 degrees.
                        - Outside? Nope it's 0-35 degrees outside in January in CT

                        So Jfood's question is where in the house or the surrounding environs can he hit this 45-55 number?

                        1. re: jfood

                          jfood. These are just suggestions from the respective organizations. Ha Ha! I offered them up as such. Sorry if your 'environs' don't meet the recommendations. Guess you'll just have to try and find alternative suggestions or ways to store these items. Was just trying to help.

                          1. re: crt

                            appreciate the post and no jabs at you at all, crt.

                            jfood did think a little about it onthe drive home. maybe he will buy a wine cooler and set it to 50 degrees. He thinks the onions and potatoes will fit nicely in the slots. "Care for a Greenwich Produce sweet potato, December 2007 vintage?"

                          2. re: jfood

                            We keep both in the frig and they store just fine at frig temps. Anytime we try to use the often mentioned non-frig methods, they are growing or rotting. No taste problems storing them in the frig, either.

                            1. re: jfood

                              You are so right, jfood. If there was somewhere in our house that got below 55 degrees, we'd get a space heater!

                              1. re: jfood

                                Obviously, you should make room in your wine cooler for these items ;)

                            2. I keep them in different places in the summer and winter. Exposing them to light and humidity seems to be the fast track to spoilage. I too do not co-mingle.

                              In the winter, they live in separate plastic bins in the garage (which is used for storage tho not cars). Temps are typically in the 50s.

                              In the summer, I keep in the house, in the same cabinet that the pots and pans are in. I figure they are in the dark this way, and it's comparatively cool, typically in the 60s-70s. This way, when I go to pull out the pan for saute-ing the onions, for example, they are right there. I also buy in smaller quantities at a time during the summer.

                              1. Russet potatoes are stored in a willow basket or burlap bag in a dark corner of the pantry. (I should mention that I never buy 5 or 10 pound plastic sacks of potatoes but choose them individually at the farmers' market or produce market. This way, there are no unseen blemishes to initiate spoilage) "New" potatoes are stored in the refrigerator short term. When I gardened extensively, I left them in the ground until needed.
                                I store yellow onions in another willow basket but use them so frequently that I have never had a problem with spoilage. Red onions go in the refrigerator, away from potatoes. Back in my gardening days, when it was time to pull the onion crop, I used the old farmer method of tying them in an old stocking and hanging them in a dark, cool room - it was the basement for me. You put one in, knot, add another, knot, etc. The air circulated, they were separated and stayed in good condition for a long time.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Sherri

                                  Your mention of the stocking trick reminded me of when I used to do that with mail-ordered cases of Vidalia onions back in surprisingly recent ancient history when that was the only way you could get them in the Northeast. It never worked for me as well as I always hoped it would--I used to lose about half of them. But I'm sure that's because a utility closet in the kitchen of an NYC apartment isn't exactly ideal for long-term storage.

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    I know what you mean. When I was a kid growing up, we lived about 30 miles from Vidalia, GA. When onions were in season, my mom and grandma would buy up a 50 lb bag or so of them and knot them in the stockings. They didn't keep any better then than they do today. Half the time, I can't even find a good one at the supermarket anymore. I live in NE Indiana. My parents still live in the same place and can't always find Vidalias without soft spots.

                                2. I have these stacking plastic bins in a corner of my kitchen. The bottom bin is where the taters live. I put onions in the refrigerator, because cold onions don't make me cry when I cut them up.

                                  1. I keep potatoes, onions/shallots, and garlic, in a woven grass basket on an open lower shelf in the kitchen. The potatoes eventually go green after a week or so (green potatoes are poisonous BTW), the onions usually get dry over a month but sometimes go mushy, and the garlic also either sprouts or dries out in a month. I'm pretty happy with this storage method overall.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: steinpilz

                                      I think it's a myth that green potatoes are poisonous. Potatoes grow underground, and the parts of them that are green are the parts that get up above the ground. I've never seen a potato turn green as it's stored if it wasn't already green. They get wrinkly or sprout, sure, but I don't think a green potato will hurt you.

                                      1. re: revsharkie

                                        I'm under the impression the green is an indicator of an solanine, which is a nerve toxin, and which yeah, won't harm your health, but will surely give you a stomach ache if you eat a good portion. I do think it's difficult to eat much green potato, though. So, the danger of stomach pain is probably relatively small unless you're a green potato aficionado. <wink>

                                        1. re: revsharkie

                                          Here's what the NIH has to say "Never eat potatoes that are spoiled or green below the skin.":

                                          http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/en...

                                          But I think amyzan's attitude is probably ok.

                                          1. re: steinpilz

                                            Wow, that list of symptoms! I'd also like to add that if anyone has kids, please don't feed 'em green or sprouted potatoes. Their little bodies are more susceptible, if only because they weigh so much less than adults.

                                            1. re: steinpilz

                                              I usually just keep peeling if some of the potato has turned a little green, until all the green was gone. For some random reason, I had some potatoes sitting on a sideboard under a southfacing window, and those things were very green after a couple of days and I through them out.

                                        2. I had them in the walk in pantry but they tended to get "lost" as the teenage boys rooted around for food and moved things. Now I have them on a large lower drawer in the kitchen that is away from the heat generating items like the dishwasher and oven. They are stored loose. I also keep all my kitchen appliance manuals in that drawer. Maybe the paper absorbs the bit of moisture they put out? The onions keep for weeks. The potatoes depending on the ambient temp anywhere from 2 weeks to a month- this is in So Calif and the max our house gets in winter with the heater on is 68, unless we have a natural heat wave.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: torty

                                            Last year during a particularly warm summer, I put a bag of potatoes in the storage/coat closet under the stairs. It tends to stay fairly cool in there. However, one spud did escape into the dark depths of the closet for a while and when I came across it while rummaging through the dark closet several months later, it scared the crap out of me. The rest of the bag was long gone and I wasn't expecting to come across a sprouted potato. At first glance I thought it was some kind of mutant mouse.

                                            1. re: gmm

                                              Vivid mental image received. You're lucky it didn't rot. Few things smell worse than a rotten potato - no vegetable things that I can think of.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                Yes, I had the stinkiest smell in a closet once, was sure a mouse crawled in there and died. Glad to find it was just a deceased potato.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  It's a dreadful smell - because of the protein content decomposing.

                                          2. My home is old enough to have a unheated root cellar in the basement. I keep my root veggies in crates w/open slats to promote ventilation.

                                            1. In Denver, I store the potatoes and onions on opposite sides of the pantry in plastic bins. Since there is usually only the two of us, I don't buy too many at a time.
                                              At the house in Patzcuaro, it's a different story. Year-round the average temperature is between 65 and 70 degrees. Again I don't buy large quantities. I keep the white and red onions in the refrigerator. The only potatoes that we like there are tiny red potatoes called criollas. I don't store them. We get them in the mercado on the day that we use them. No russets in our area. They only have all-purpose potatoes that don't seem to cook very well at our altitude.

                                              1. I put them in hanging wire baskets - out of the puppy's reach.

                                                1. There are only 2 of us now, so I buy individual potatoes and onions, not bags. I keep potatoes, white and sweet, and onions, garlic and shallots in an old-fashioned large mixing bowl under the counter in the corner cabinet lazy susan. I cycle through onions weekly, and occasionally forget about the potatoes and lose them. But mostly this works for me. Frankly, I have more problems with sprouted garlic than sprouted potatoes.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                    I just remove the sprout from the garlic clove (or the onion) before chopping. It works fine, and it is a bit of a pain, but luckily they don't sprout quickly except this time of year when they've been in storage a while. Of course, I go through garlic and onions fast enough it's rare I have a real goner. Somehow, it's easier to use up garlic and onions than potatoes. I mostly only buy potatoes by the pound, which is more expensive. I figure that if I factored in the waste from a five or ten pound bag, though, it evens out. There are times I know I'll use five pounds in a week, but that's not often with two people in the house.

                                                  2. I have a pretty big garage and along the backside, are the pantry shelves and a second fridge, beside the shelves is a stainless steel wire rack with drawers, top drawer is for acorn squash, apples and oranges or hard skinned things. 2nd drawer holds potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes, and the 3rd is for onions, garlic and shallots.

                                                    As long as I don't over purchase everything is used within two weeks. I only get the sprouting around week 3 if I don't use the potatoes. I buy those individually, long run it's less wasteful.

                                                    What about leeks though? I put those in the fridge??? Or do they too belong in a drawer not in the fridge.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                                      Leeks should be stored in the fridge. But they transfer odors to other foods in there so need to be wrapped in plastic wrap or sealed in a plastic bag. If I remember, I'll wrap them first in a damp paper towel and, if I do, I seem to get an extra day or two out of them.

                                                    2. i use onion ALOT, so I keep them easily within reach on the counter by my cutting area in a shallow bowl, along with bulbs of garlic.

                                                      potatoes i keep in any vessel, but i keep them on a lower shelf of my baker's rack that is out of the light, but still easily visible and accessible (in case i forget theat they're there!)

                                                      1. Well, when it comes to potatoes, I have reached the conclusion that all of the chain supermarkets I've shopped at in the last twenty years must have huge warehouses where they keep all of their potatoes for about two years before moving them to their produce departments! I have tried everything known to man to make potatoes last longer than a week before growing eyes, or tendrils with leaves. So I just gave up.

                                                        Now I have a fairly large island in my kitchen that looks strangely naked with nothing on it, so I have a large willow basket at one end with a couple of petrified loaves of French bread, a couple of petrified ciabattas, some amazingly real plastic eggs and a whole bunch of potatoes all artfully arranged. I eat the potatoes, when the ramaining specimens start growing eyes, I toss them and start anew. How much would a flower arrangement cost? Potatoes are cheap!

                                                        The other end of the island has a 60's vintage yellow enameled round cast iron casserole that sits on a tall iron and walnut tripod. It holds an arrangement of onions, garlic, still-on-the-vine tomatoes and a nice tall Hubbard squash. Right now one of the large Spanish onions has grown a tall green plume and looks quite attractive among the still-edibles. They get replaced regularly as they are eaten. I consider both the potato basket and my onion-garlic-tomato-squash melange my kitchen still lifes. As I said, cheaper than flowers! My kitchen table currently has a crystal bowl filled with pomegranites. It changes with the season.

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          If you buy potatoes in the summer or early fall, then they are at least a year old. If there's a warehouse somewhere that doesn't sell all its stock, then I guess they could be close to two sometimes. They only harvest once a year, like apples. Now's the time to enjoy!

                                                          1. re: coll

                                                            I really hope this isn't true.
                                                            Seems they import from out of state (or out of the country) most of what's in our local markets anyway, most of the year. Don't they import any potatoes?

                                                            On a related note:
                                                            October 7, 2010
                                                            "PRESQUE ISLE, Maine— Here there are no traditions more rooted in the loamy soil than the annual potato harvest. John Steinbeck wrote about it in 'Travels With Charley'....

                                                            Some districts have responded by shortening the [time off from school to help with the potato harvest] from the traditional three weeks to one or two."
                                                            http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001...

                                                            1. re: racer x

                                                              Most commercial potatoes that I know of either come from Idaho, or Maine/PEI. They need a very specific climate, cool nights with warmer days. I've seen exotic type potatoes from South American occasionally, but not russets. We still have our potato farms here on Long Island but don't know if we are as much a player in the big game as we used to be, I can easily get here but don't see them talked about much elsewhere anymore. But it IS once a year that they are harvested, that much I know. I see the potato trucks filled to the brim for just a few weeks right around now, and then they're gone til next year.

                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                That goes against my experience growing up in Canada, where we got "new potatoes" in the summer and early fall (with barely-formed, flaky skins) and "old potatoes" in the fall and winter - my father (who was put to work on a farm at the age of 13 by his stepfather) said they were the same potatoes, picked more mature later in the year so they could withstand storage.

                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                  But all part of the annual (once a year) potato crop, right? They are not a year round, endless supply, if there is a bad crop, woe to the french fry manufacturers next summer when they start running out! Happened a year or two back.

                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                    True, cropiing that's spread over a few months, in temperate climates.

                                                        2. I keep my onions and garlic in an old dutch oven in the cabinet under my prep area. I keep the potatoes in the utility room in a dark corner. I buy 5-15 pounds at a time and sometimes they keep for well over a month. I usually buy them at SavALot because they're less expensive and I have to carefully watch our grocery budget. In summer, they don't keep quite as long because we only use air conditioning if the outside temps are over 85F. Our house can get quite warm! In winter, we keep the thermostat set on 68 during the day and 62 at night. They rarely ever rot or sprout.

                                                          1. As soon as you get home, remove the potatoes from the cellophane bag they were shipped in to your grocery store. Place potatoes in a brown paper bag in a cool, dry, dark place. This will prevent moisture from getting on the potatoes and making them grow. Your potatoes will last so much longer and remain fresher. Do not wash the potato until you are ready to cook and eat. The dirt on them protects against them going bad sooner.
                                                            If the potatoes end up growing before you are ready to use them, simply remove the growth without disturbing the skin. If you notice one potato going bad, remove it so it does not affect your entire supply.

                                                            1. Both onions and potatoes in a dark cupboard. After using a half onion, I have been putting the unused half in a plastic bag (to avoid fridge odor) in the refrigerator produce bin. Is there a better way to handle the onion leftovers?

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: DonShirer

                                                                I'd like to recommend using the Ziploc Vacuum bags. You buy the kit (it comes with 5 bags) and then can buy quart and gallon bags for additional use.

                                                                I have two quart bags I've designated as "onion" bags (reusable), and after using the air removal pump, it really does seem to keep the onion fresh, and there's NO smell.

                                                                1. re: DonShirer

                                                                  I use the Glad Press 'n Seal wrap for things like this. Works great.

                                                                2. Wow.. what a lot of different techniques. I always buy potatoes in plastic, ventilated bags, having found that the traditional paper bag always has too much moisture, and the spuds sprout/spoil quickly. No problems with the plastic bags.

                                                                  Onions, I buy 5 or 10 lbs in this weird orange mesh bag. Then I put them together with the potatoes in a cardboard box, which is stored out of the light near my fridge, but with no top on it for extra ventilation. .

                                                                  My latest batch of onions was bought in December, and they're still fine. I go through the spuds a little more quickly, but a 5 lb bag generally lasts me 4-6 weeks without any problems.

                                                                  On a tangentially related topic, I've also found that I can get a head of iceberg lettuce to last for up to two weeks and still have lots of crunch by wrapping the cut side with a piece of paper towel, and storing it in a plastic bag in the fridge. (Yeah, I cut and chop my lettuce; I'm too lazy to spend the time tearing it.)

                                                                  1. I'm in the northeast, and we have an unheated pantry (that used to be a dumbwaiter) in our 1885 home. I never measured the temperature in there, but it's pretty darn cool in the winter. I have a wire mesh thingie suspended from a rod, and the potatoes and onions go in there. Also acorn squash and the shallots that I buy at the Sri Lankan grocery. In the summertime, I risk storing all of those on the counter or in the fridge...but then I buy those at the farmer's market, so they're fresher to begin with, and last longer.

                                                                    1. The onions are on the bottom shelf of our lazy susan in a little wooden box along with the garlic. I use them so often that I need them essentially at arm's reach, but I figure the dark with some ventiliation is a decent place for them.

                                                                      Potatoes get a bit less use, so they are sitting in some boxes in our dirt-floored basement. I'd say the temp is somewhere around 50. We received at least 20 pounds of potatoes from our CSA in Nov & Dec and the last few are still in quite good shape. They have tiny sprouts, but nothing that a paring knife can't handle.

                                                                      1. If you really want to store potatoes and onions long term, store them between 50-60F in a 25# cheap bag of rice. You can use the rice for years.

                                                                        I skimmed through the posts and didn't notice this mentioned (my apologies if I missed it)--onions and potatoes must be stored in separate places. Some gas the onions give off make the potatoes rot very quickly. I have experimented with this and believe it to be true.

                                                                        1. If one has a yard that can be dug in, you have storage for your onions, carrots, and potatoes. Dig a hole (know what is buried underground and where it is safe to dig before doing so) at least 18 inches deep or below the frost line in your area. I usually dig a 2-3' deep hole. Line the bottom and the sides with dried straw and place your tubers within mixing them with straw as you go. Finally place a 2 inch layer of straw on top of your tubers and bury with all the dirt. Thus creating your own root cellar.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: dscott15

                                                                            Very interesting, dscott.
                                                                            I'm curious as to where you live. It must surely be easier to get to them if you don't have to dig through snow and frozen dirt to reach your stash in the winter.

                                                                            And do you ever have trouble remembering exactly where the buried goods are?

                                                                            1. re: racer x

                                                                              Just the two of us now and Safeway is 5 minutes away so I shop for these things as needed. I have a couple bulbs of garlic in a small milk glass bowl on my counter next to the stovetop.

                                                                              1. re: racer x

                                                                                The permafrosted dirt, snow, and potentially thick ice on top of that snow or permafrosted dirt, as well as forgetting where the "root cellar" is once buried by snow came to my mind as well, racer x. :-/

                                                                            2. I just dump everything into the veggie drawer at the bottom of my fridge while in the plastic bags from the grocery store. Never, ever had a good experience with leaving any veggies/fruits outside of the veggie drawer in the fridge, so I just gave up and ignored the typical advice.

                                                                              I also find that cold onions are easier on the eyes when cutting/chopping.