There may well be a lot of potatoes to be stored in years when the crop is heavy, and this can present storage problems. All potatoes should be stored by the end of October, and the most common storing places are sheds, cellars and clamps. Whatever place is chosen must be dark and frost-proof as potatoes cannot stand frost and turn watery, becoming unfit for use. The storage place must also be dry and cool.
Potatoes should be lifted on a fine dry day, excess soil carefully brushed off, and the potatoes put into baskets as they are dug. They should not be left too long in the light as this harms potatoes, but may be left on the ground for an hour or two to dry any damp earth which may be on them.
In a cellar or shed, potatoes keep best spread out in heaps on the floor with long dry straw at the bottom, and a covering of dry straw at least 12in/30cm thick on the top and sides. Dry bracken may be used instead of straw. Any potatoes which are damaged in lifting should be left for immediate use.
Potatoes, as well as other root vegetables, may be safely stored outside in the open in mounds known as ‘clamps’, ‘pies’, or ‘hogs’. The bottom of the clamp should be firm and level with ends facing north and south, so that the clamp may be opened at the south end in winter with the least likelihood of letting in frost. Use a well-drained site, and if the land is heavy, keep the clamp on ground level or slightly raised. On light soil, a shallow excavation of about 9in/23cm may be dug. A clamp is usually about 3½ft/1m wide and should be long enough to take all the potatoes.
Pile the potatoes in a ridge along the site and cover with dry straw or bracken a few inches thick. Bank this up with a layer of soil at least 12in/30cm thick, beat down flat with the back of a spade, leaving a little straw showing at the top for ventilation. Cover the sides and ends of this clamp with a layer of long straw about 4in/10cm thick, pressing the lower ends of the straw into the ground to prevent the entry of frost. Place a layer of straw on the ‘roof’ of the clamp so that it overhangs the sides and rain will run off. Cover this straw with a layer of 3in/7.5cm deep soil.
When winter weather begins, dig a drainage trench about 12in/30cm wide and 6in/15cm deep all round the clamp and pile the surplus earth on the clamp. Cut away a short trench from the drainage trench so that water runs away. The layer of soil on top of the clamp should be about 6–8in/15–20cm deep to prevent frost entering. Clamping may seem to be a lot of trouble, but it does save on shed or cellar space and can preserve a large potato crop which can be bulky.
© 1978 Mary Norwak estate. All rights reserved.