Storage of potatoes in the soil: use of potato pits for winter storage

A member of the acorn family, which includes other New World crops such as tomato, pepper and tobacco, the potato was first introduced to Europe in 1573. The potato, a staple in the diet of Irish farmers, was introduced in 1590 and was an important source of nutrition providing calories (sugar starch), a small amount of protein, vitamin C, B1 and riboflavin and other daily nutrients. At that time, storing potatoes in pits dug in the ground was a way to ensure an abundance of food during the winter season.

Tips for preserving potatoes

In general, storing potatoes in potato soil is not the most recommended method, especially for any long-term storage. Leaving the tubers in the soil under a heavy layer of soil that can eventually get wet will most certainly create conditions that will cause the potato to rot or promote sprouting. Cool, wet conditions of 38-45 F. (3-7 C.) found in cellars or basements are ideal for the storage of most potatoes.

Once the potatoes have been harvested, they can be stored for long periods of time provided they are kept dry and out

the sun. The leaves and flowers of potatoes are poisonous and the tuber itself can turn green and poisonous if exposed to the sun. Lack of light is therefore an important aspect of storing potatoes in the soil.

Although most people store potatoes in a cellar or similar place, storing potatoes in the ground has long been a traditional storage method, using potato pits for winter storage. When creating a potato pit, good construction is the key to preventing potato rotting and allowing you to remove only the few potatoes you need at any given time.

How to store potatoes in a well

Creating a potato ditch is a simple matter. First, locate an outside area that remains fairly dry, such as a slope or hill. Do not choose an area where rainwater tends to collect, as stored potatoes will rot.

When creating a potato pit, dig a pit 1 to 2 feet deep and 1 to 2 feet wide depending on the number of potatoes you want to store. Then fill the bottom of the pit with one inch of clean, dry straw and place the potatoes on top in a single layer. You can store up to two bushels of potatoes in one pit or 16 dry gallons if you can’t concentrate on a pick or bushel.

Add another deep layer of straw on top of the potatoes, between 1 and 3 feet deep, depending on the severity of the climate in your area.

Finally, put the soil previously dug in the pit back on top, covering the newly placed straw until it is at least 3 cm thick and the straw is not exposed.

In extreme climates or simply for extra protection, you can dig the pit deeper than previously recommended and place a clean plastic barrel at a 45-degree angle. Fill the barrel with the tubers and place a lid on it, slightly closed. Then follow the instructions above, starting by covering the barrel with 1 to 3 feet of straw.

The use of potato pits for winter storage must protect the potatoes for 120 days or at least during the winter months.

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