How and When to Harvest Potatoes

THE ART OF HARVESTING POTATOES

Potato is one of those vegetables which have a variety of uses. A lot of dishes are incomplete without this veggie. Around 5000 types of potatoes are available around the globe. Potato has directly made its way to the hearts of people.

Potatoes are a cool-season crop that is easy to cultivate and manage. With due attention to the crop, you can get a kitchen staple around the year.

Just growing any crop does not mean the work is over. It is necessary to pay attention to the time and technique of Harvesting.

So, now let us discuss these two issues in detail –

  • When to harvest potatoes?
  • How to harvest potatoes?

 

WHEN TO HARVEST POTATOES

We can get a potato out of the ground at different periods to fulfill our demand throughout the year.

Based on the time taken to cultivate, there are three groups of Potatoes:

1) First early potatoes

2) Second early potatoes

3) Maincrop potatoes

INDICATORS

There are a variety of Indicators that help us to know when to harvest Potatoes.

One needs to see the signs and decide the harvesting time based on the type of potato required- Mature or new.

New Potatoes

These are immature potatoes. They are small and round in size. This type of potato has thin skin. It includes both the First Early and the Second Early ones. 

Best way to check whether a new potato is ready or not is to see the flowers.They produce flower buds that may or may not bloom. When these flowers fall or begin to fade, we should dig up our crop.

Apart from that, if unopened flower buds drop from plants, we should be ready to harvest. Now, Most of the leaves may be green; only a few may start turning yellow.

We need to harvest first and second earlies at different times. When we see these indicators, we can wait for the specified times to get our desired harvest.

1) For First Earlies

These will be ready for harvest 2 to 3 weeks after the plants stop flowering. It would usually happen around 60 to 70 days after planting.

2) For Second Earlies

They can be harvested about three weeks succeeding the First Earlies.

Mature Potatoes

These potatoes are fully mature. Their skin is thick. We can store them easily for future use. These are also called Maincrop Potatoes.

The best way to figure out when mature potatoes are ready to harvest is to check their foliage. When the tops of the plant completely die and fall over, we can dig out the crop.

The stems and leaves of the crops turn brown when the potato tubers below the ground mature. This process takes about 15 weeks.

PROCEDURE FOR CHECKING MATURITY 

There are a few methods of checking the maturity of the Potatoes. The most common way is to check the size, skin, and fallen tops. 

Now, let us discuss the procedure of checking the maturity signs.

Size of Tuber

Pull up a potato once the indicators appear to get an idea about the size of potatoes. Check the size. It should be up to the size of an egg if we want new potatoes. In the case of a mature potato, the expected size is much larger.

If the tuber doesn’t meet the expectations in terms of size, then one or two more samples could be pulled out from the ground and checked. Still, if the tubers are not large enough, leave the rest of the crop to ripen.

On the other hand, if the pulled one meets the required size, check the rest of the crop for other signs.

Skin

Pull out a sample from the ground. Check the skin of the potato to know whether it is mature or not.

If the skin is light and can rub off easily, then the potato is immature. At this stage, we should only harvest if we need New Potatoes.

If we want Mature Potatoes, then we should allow them to stay in the ground for the required time. It would allow the skins to get tough and become thick. Skins of mature potatoes are firmly attached to the flesh.

Fallen Tops

Much of the foliage on plants begin to turn yellow. They will shrivel up and become brown in color and then dry. Then, only stems will be remaining on the plant along with some shriveled leaves.

If any of the crops have their tops fallen, samples could be dug up and checked for other signs.

Sometimes, other maturity signs exist still the vines are not dying back. Then, we can knock the vines flat or cut them with a knife to kill them. We can dig up the crop after doing this.

 

BEST TIME TO HARVEST POTATOES

When to Harvest Potatoes
When to Harvest Potatoes

We can harvest the three types of Potatoes at different times of the year:

  1. “First early potatoes”— they grow speedily and take little space. They can be harvested early to midsummer when they reach the size of an egg.
  2. “Second early potatoes”—these are midseason potatoes that grow speedily and take a little space like first earlies. They are planted a month after the first earlies. We can harvest second earlies from late summer to early autumn.
  3. “Maincrop potatoes”— These are grown to maturity for both immediate consumption and storage over the winter. We can harvest them from early to mid-Autumn.

 

BEST WEATHER TO HARVEST POTATOES

It is better to harvest the crop on a warm sunny day to store it for a longer time. If Sun is not there, then a dry day after a few days of no rain or a cloudy day will work.

Keep a check on the weather forecasts. If heavy rain is forecasted, better to harvest the crop early since the excessive moisture from downpour can damage the crop.

Potatoes may spoil in the very cool temperature, so it is advisable to harvest them before the first hard frost as Potatoes can tolerate light frost. 

HOW TO HARVEST POTATOES

Harvesting potatoes is an easy task. We should try to keep the potatoes as undamaged and blemish-free as possible. 

Now let us talk in detail about how we can get our perfect potatoes!

DIGGING

There are different mannerisms while digging out new and mature potatoes.

Let us see how:

New Potatoes

We need to lift the plant gently with hands or a garden-fork. When we take out the plant, the surrounding soil will fall.

We can dig out as many potatoes as we want, then we should set the plant inside the soil again so that the remaining tubers can grow. Do not leave the plant out of the ground for long because the sun rays can damage exposed roots and tubers.

Apart from this, we can lift a whole plant and take out all the potatoes. The plants which we leave in the ground become mature later. Also, the plant may produce new potatoes again.

We can easily use our hands to get out new potatoes; when it is grown in hills of very loose soil.

Main Crop Potatoes

When the vines die naturally or when we cut them off or break them at ground level, the crop is ready to be dugout.

After a few days, we should begin our process. Do not water the crop in between so that potatoes can harden. We can also cut the plant off about an inch from the ground to let hardening happen in a better way.

Use a spading fork to harvest mature potatoes. Try to keep the spade at least 10 to 18 inches away from the plant stem. It is to ensure that while losing the soil; potatoes do not get damaged (blemished)

Doing this in dry soil is easier, so it is better to wait for a few days after a rain shower before we start digging.

DRYING THE POTATOES

Now, it’s time to leave the harvested crop to stay outdoors for drying in the sunlight. Do not exceed the time limit of max a day. If we keep potatoes in sunlight for a longer time, it may produce a bitter chemical compound called solanine and turn greenish.

When tubers would dry, then the excess soil will fall off. If it does not happen, use a soft brush for the purpose. Avoid using water for removing soil remains as it will shorten its storage life.

Don’t put the potatoes out in the sky if it is rainy. Also, remember not to pile up the freshly harvested crop. Potatoes should be put side by side and not be allowed to toss over.

Keep all damaged (blemished) potatoes aside for quicker usage since they won’t last long.

CURING PROCESS

We can easily store potatoes for a longer duration. To make sure that they last longer, Curing is an essential step.

It involves removing moisture by drying the skin of the potatoes. Curing will allow cuts, nicks, and bruises of the potatoes to heal.

PERFECT LOCATION TO CURE POTATOES

 

Curing is a longer drying process away from the sunlight. Thus, we should keep the freshly harvested potatoes in a dry, cool, dark place for up to two weeks. 

Places, where the temperature is between 45 to 60°F / 7 to 15°C, are best suited for this process. A bit humid atmosphere is desirable for the curing process.

STORING THE POTATOES

We cannot store new potatoes for a longer period. So, consume them immediately after they are dugout.

The main issue is to store mature potatoes properly. We can Store main crop potatoes in a dark, dry place for a week or two at 55° to 65° F with high humidity of 85 to 85 percent.

If we want to store potatoes for winter, we should keep them at a temperature between 35° to 40°F. A dark room, basement, or root cellar with moderate humidity and ventilation would work.

If we want to store the Potatoes for up to eight months, we should only keep the potatoes having no soft spots. If we keep them at a temperature of more than 40°F, it will cause tubers to sprout and shrivel. We need to keep a constant eye on the potatoes; if sprouting happens, we should knock them off.

SOME EXTRA TIPS FOR GETTING PERFECT POTATOES

  • Never refrigerate potatoes. They may shrivel up due to the dry air inside the fridge.
  • Never store potatoes with apples; apples give out ethylene gas which will cause potatoes to spoil.
  • If you don’t want to have potatoes having a sweet taste; take them out of storage several days before cooking. It allows the extra sugar (due to the slow breathing process in cool storage) to change to starch again- a process called Reconditioning.

Also, Read – When to Harvest Onions 

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