Browse through our library of Frequently Asked Questions about potatoes:
Where does my potato come from? What happens to it before it reaches my grocery store?
Learn more about where our potatoes come from by clicking here!
How should I store potatoes? And how long can I keep them?
If you purchased potatoes in a plastic bag, the best thing to do is to remove them from the plastic bag and put them in a paper bag, cardboard box or basket. Store them in an area that is dark, and cool, but not cold, such as a pantry, cupboard, or basement. Never store potatoes in the refrigerator; their cold temperature will turn the starch in potatoes to sugar, giving them an off-flavor. Potatoes will keep for 4-6 weeks in a cool, dark area. Even if they begin to grow sprouts and start to look shrivelled, they are still ok to eat. Cut the sprouts away and peel them for use in in casseroles and soups.
What causes a potato to turn green?
An overexposure to any light source, the most common being sunlight or fluorescent lights. This causes the chemical solanine to accumulate in the skin of the Potato, turning it a green hue. This can also create a bitter taste, so it is best to cut away affected portions. The best way to avoid green potatoes, and keep them fresh, is to store them in a cool, dry, and dark location.
The potatoes I purchased are green.
There are two ways potatoes can turn green. One is a condition called "sunburn" which manifests itself as dark green spots and occurs due to a small area of the potato being exposed to sunlight while still in the ground. Rain or wind can move soil off potatoes that are growing close to the surface. Potatoes with this condition are usually picked out during the quality control process, but, from time to time, one can be missed. The second way is a condition called "light-struck" and occurs when the potatoes are exposed to light for an extended period of time. The light-struck condition sometimes occurs under the bright fluorescent lights in grocery stores and is manifested as a light green color covering most of the surface area of the potato, just under the skin. Both conditions are simply the potatoes' natural reaction to light. They are still a living, breathing plant organism and the chlorophyll in the skin is reacting to light and turning the potatoes green. You are correct in that you shouldn't eat the green portions. Just like other plants in the nightshade family (such as tomatoes and eggplant), green potatoes contain a small amount of toxin but are only harmful if eaten in very large amounts. However, it is still advisable not to eat a green potato as it has a bitter taste.
When shopping, look at the potatoes carefully to assure that you don't buy a bag that has been light-struck. Stores should remove these from their shelves, but sometimes, they can be missed.
What are the best varieties for baking?
Russet, round white and red-skinned varieties all bake well. Click here to learn more about the best use for each potato variety and the best variety for each type of potato recipe.
What are the best varieties for soups and salads?
Round white, red-skinned, yellow-flesh, purple, and fingerling varieties work best in soups and salads. Click here to learn more about the best use for each potato variety and the best variety for each type of potato recipe.
I have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Are potatoes a good choice for me?
Potatoes are a great choice for anyone who needs to eat a gluten-free diet. Potatoes are naturally 100% gluten-free and provide healthy, non-processed carbohydrates as opposed to other starchy food choices.
Are there any food allergy concerns with potatoes?
Potatoes are not a known allergen. Nor is there any chance of known allergen cross-contamination in our packaging plant.
Are your potatoes genetically modified (GMO)?
While most potato varieties are hybrids, bred for characteristics such as flesh-color, skin color, or shape, there are no varieties on the market that are genetically modified for such things as pest resistance or increased shelf-life. Sterman Masser Inc.'s policy is that we will not support the sale of genetically-modified potato varieties.
When I started to peel my potatoes, I noticed small grey or black spots. Some of the spots even looked like mold.
These spots are called internal black spot and are essentially bruising that occurs from the potatoes lying against each other for an extended period of time. The moldy looking spots are a more serious condition that can develop from the bruises, called fusarium. The potatoes are still safe to eat, just cut the spots away. If there is an extensive amount of fusarium, this can give the potatoes an off flavor.
When I cut my potatoes open, I noticed a brownish discoloration and the center seemed hollow. Sometimes, the center is black and seems decayed.
This is, in fact, a physiological condition called hollow heart. Hollow heart occurs when growing conditions abruptly change during the season. It can arise when the potato plants recover too quickly after a period of environmental or nutritional stress. When the tubers begin to grow rapidly, the tuber pith can die and/or pull apart leaving a void in the center. This condition is not a disease and is not harmful. From time to time, if potatoes are held in very warm conditions with little air, the tuber pith void can develop into a condition called blackheart, causing a decayed, black center. If you cut either condition away, you can still use the remaining healthy potato flesh.
While peeling my potatoes, I noticed a brownish discoloration at the one end.
You probably also noticed that this discoloration looked somewhat like netting. It is a condition called net necrosis and it occurs when the potatoes grow under conditions that are too dry. The vascular system at the stem end of the potato begins to break down, causing this brown discoloration. This condition is not harmful.
While slicing my potatoes, I noticed a brownish ring in the flesh all around the outside of the potatoes.
This condition, called vascular discoloration is similar to net necrosis. Dry conditions cause the vascular ring, which extends around the entire tuber, to discolor. This condition is not harmful.
The potatoes I bought have small, dark spots all over the skin.
Potatoes have small holes in their skins called "lenticels." These are actually the orifices through which the tubers respire, or breathe. Excess moisture can cause the lenticels to swell. Then, when they shrink back to normal size, they become discolored. The potatoes are still fine to eat if they are peeled.
I opened a bag of potatoes and found a rotten one. Can I still eat the rest?
Yes. Just be sure to give the rest of the potatoes in the bag a good washing. And throw that stinky guy away.
What are "new" potatoes?
In general, new potatoes are any potatoes that are freshly harvested and immediately washed and packaged for sale, without being stored for more than a few days. New potatoes usually have a lower glycemic index than potatoes that have been stored for any length of time because starch content increases over time. They also tend to be smaller in size and are also known as "petite" potatoes.
Do I have to wash my potatoes before I prepare them?
Although most potato packing sheds do wash their product before bagging them, it is generally a good practice to wash potatoes (and any produce!) before preparing and eating the product.
Some of our products, such as our Simply Spuds Steamables, Bakeables and Grillables are ready to cook per the package directions. They have been triple washed, including a final sanitizing rinse, and packed in a clean room environment so they are ready to go right into the microwave or on the grill when you bring them home.
The potatoes I bought are starting to sprout!
Even after they are harvested, potatoes continue to be a living, breathing organism. They are doing what all organisms try to do – procreate. Sprouting is a natural process of potatoes and does not affect their edibility. In our potato packing sheds, potatoes are treated with a non-toxic chemical called Sprout Nip®, which delays most sprouting. You can still eat sprouted potatoes; just cut the sprouts away.
What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? I've always thought they were one and the same.
Sweet potatoes are a dicot (double embryonic seed leaf) plant from the morning glory family. There are many varieties of sweet potatoes with skin colors that can range from white to yellow, red, purple or brown. The flesh also ranges in color from white to yellow, orange or orange-red. Sweet potato varieties are classified as either "firm" or "soft." When cooked, the firm varieties remain firm, while soft varieties become soft and moist. Yams are a monocot (single embryonic seed leaf) plant closely related to lilies and grasses. Native to Africa and Asia, yams vary in size from the size of a small potato up to the record size of 130 pounds. Yams are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes. So why the name confusion? In the early years of the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first commercially grown, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the "soft" sweet potatoes "yams" because they resembled the yams in Africa. So, "soft" sweet potatoes were referred to as "yams" to distinguish them from firm varieties. Soft sweet potatoes may be labelled yams when sold in most produce sections, but they are true sweet potatoes. True yams are not generally sold in most U.S. supermarkets but can be found in international markets such as urban wholesale produce markets.
How can I reduce tearing when cutting an onion?
To reduce tearing when cutting onions, first chill the onions for 30 minutes. Then, cut off the top and peel the outer layers leaving the root end intact. (The root end has the highest concentration of sulphuric compounds that make your eyes tear.)
How should I store dry bulb onions when I get them home from the store?
Store dry bulb onions in a cool, dry, well ventilated place. Do not store whole onions in plastic bags. Lack of air movement reduces storage life.
How do I store whole peeled onions?
Whole peeled onions should be properly refrigerated at 40°F or below. (Source: USDA)
After I cut or use part of an onion, how long will it keep?
Chopped or sliced onions can be stored in a sealed container in your refrigerator at the proper temperature of 40°F or below for 7 to 10 days (Source: USDA). For pre-cut fresh or frozen products, always use and follow manufactures "use by" dates.
Why do my onions taste bitter after sautéing?
High heat makes onions bitter. When sautéing onions, always use low or medium heat.
How do I remove the smell of onions from my hands and/or cooking equipment?
Rub your hands or cooking equipment with lemon juice. If your pots or pans are made of aluminium, cast iron, or carbon-steel, rub them with salt instead.
What should I look for when purchasing onions?
When purchasing onions, look for dry outer skins free of spots or blemishes. The onion should be heavy for its size with no scent.
I want to use raw onion. How can I reduce the pungency?
To reduce the pungency, sharpness or aftertaste of a raw onion, cut them the way you plan to use them and place into a bowl of ice water to stand for 1 1/2 hours before draining. If time is at a premium, place onions in a strainer or sieve. Run water through onions for at least a minute.
Are onions healthy?
Yes. Onions are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber and other key nutrients. Onions are fat free and low in calories, yet add abundant flavor to a wide variety of foods.
Courtesy of the National Onion Association.