Potato is one of the most produced crops in the world, alongside sugar cane, corn, wheat, and rice. They’re easy to grow and yield generous harvests. They need sunlight, fertile soil, and water, and they’ll grow abundantly.
Centuries ago, potatoes were grown, harvested, and processed by hand. Today, potato growers and manufacturers utilize heavy-duty industrial equipment to harvest and process their produce.
Heavy-duty machinery allows potato growers to multiply their yield tenfold and reduce manual labor, helping them save a lot in the long run. If you’re interested, check out https://www.milestone-equipment.com/ or other platforms that offer similar services.
If you’re wondering how to harvest and process potatoes properly, this post is your guide. Read on!
How To Grow Potatoes?
Before you harvest your potatoes, you want to ensure they grow in the best way possible. So, how should you do it? Look at the following tips below:
Water Your Potatoes
First and foremost, water your potatoes! This is important when growing potatoes because these tubers are leafy and lush and require much effort to swell. So, if you see the soil drying out, water it immediately and thoroughly.
You should also ensure even moisture levels in the soil, especially when the flowers start to bloom. Potatoes require one to two inches of water per week—too much or too little water right after planting may cause them to grow irregularly. Stop watering your potatoes when their foliage starts to turn yellow.
If you’re growing potatoes in containers, keep them moist, especially during summer, as it’ll make a significant difference in achieving a good harvest.
Hill Your Potatoes
The flavor of potatoes may vary depending on depth and darkness. When potatoes grow, they tend to rise above the soil surface. If so, you’ll need to add more soil around the plant to ensure that only its leaves will stick out. This is called hilling or mounding.
It’s important not to expose the spuds to sunlight to prevent a bitter taste and the formation of toxins due to a compound called solanine. You’ll know when your potatoes develop solanine if they turn green, meaning they have been exposed to sunlight.
Hill your potatoes in the morning or every time the stems grow six to eight inches tall to ensure that only the tops will be exposed to sunlight. Continue hilling potatoes until the foliage starts to close in between plant rows.
Protect Your Potatoes From Frost
Frost may cause damage to the young foliage. So, do everything you can to keep them safe. To protect your plants from frost, cover the area with a layer of warming cloth or fleece or hill-up soil to hide the young spuds.
How To Harvest Potatoes?
When harvesting potatoes, it’s best to do it on dry days. Dig up the soil carefully so as not to damage the tubers. Since the soil isn’t compact, it’ll be easy to unearth the potatoes. Also, avoid bruising or cutting their skin as much as possible.
Potatoes may endure light frost, but not the hard one. So, if there’s a hard frost coming, it’s time to grab your shovels and start digging your potatoes. Moreover, make sure to harvest potatoes at the right time. If you’re too late, they might suffer from a disease or a slug attack, especially in maincrop spuds.
Usually, the potatoes are unearthed while the plants are still flowering. They should be as big as a hen’s egg or a bit bigger depending on the variety of potatoes. Dig up using a fork starting at the edge of the plant, but be careful not to puncture the tubers.
Once you’ve loosened the soil, it’s time to raise the plants above the ground to expose all the spuds. Don’t forget to dig around the plant to check if there are some potatoes you may have missed.
Dig the maincrop spuds when the foliage starts to die as the end of the growing season approaches. It might be easy for you to the foliage before removing the potatoes from the ground on a dry day. Leave the spuds above the soil surface for a couple of hours to dry the skin, but don’t leave them for too long, or the skin will turn green and produce solanine.
Here are some tips to determine when to harvest potatoes:
- Make your potatoes storage-ready by providing only a little water after mid-August.
- Test to see how mature your potatoes are by digging up a hill. The skin of a mature potato is thick and attached firmly to the flesh. If it’s too thin, don’t lift them yet for a few more days to help them mature.
- Check the soil to see if it’s wet. If it’s wet, air-dry the potatoes as much as possible before transferring them to baskets or bags to reduce the risk of spoilage.
- Some parts of potatoes may develop green spots. That’s fine as long as they’re minimal—just trim them off. However, if the greening is severe, dispose of those potatoes immediately.
Follow these simple tips to harvest your full-grown potatoes properly.
How To Cure Potatoes?
Curing takes place after harvesting mature potatoes. It thickens the skins of the potatoes and slows down their respiratory rate to prepare them for storage.
To cure the freshly harvested potatoes, put them in breathable cardboard boxes or sacks and place them in a dark and cool location but frost free. Ideally, store them between 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit or 7-15 degrees Celsius, with a relative humidity of 85-95 for one to two weeks.
After curing, remove the potatoes from the bags or sacks and brush off any excess soil. Also, don’t wash them yet unless you’re going to eat them. Washing your potatoes will reduce their shelf-life. Then, sort your produce and throw away those that are discolored.
How To Store Potatoes?
If you’re going to eat your freshly harvested potatoes in a matter of days, storage isn’t a problem. You can keep your potatoes anywhere you want.
You’ll need a cool (38-40 degrees Fahrenheit) and dark place to store your potatoes for long-term keeping. You may use the area where you cure your potatoes but lower the temperature to create an optimal condition.
If the storage area is too warm, your potatoes will sprout and become more vulnerable to diseases. Potatoes are 80% water, so they must be placed somewhere humid. If the location is too dry, the potatoes will dry out and wither eventually.
If you have a damp cellar, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you’ll need a refrigerator to store your tubers but use perforated bags to promote air circulation. To improve humidity levels, place pots filled with water where the air is as comforting as possible.
How To Process Potatoes?
Here are the basic steps of processing potatoes to follow whether you’re making French fries, potato chips, or other potato-based products:
Receiving And Sorting Potatoes
Potatoes are received from storage inside the manufacturing plant or suppliers delivering them in bags, sacks, or crates. Then, potatoes will be sorted to remove misshapen, green, rotten, sprouting, mechanically damaged, and infested.
In a continuous manufacturing setup, potatoes pass through a conveyor belt for inspection, where defective ones are removed manually.
After receiving and sorting, potatoes will be washed to remove soil, sprouts, insects, and other unwanted matter that may affect the quality of the final product. Washing the tubers is important, especially when following a wet harvest where potatoes have high soil content.
This process can be done manually using a hose or automatically using an operated washer where potatoes pass through a conveyor belt and are blasted with water.
Peeling And Trimming Potatoes
If you’re producing French fries or potato chips, peeling and trimming your potatoes may be necessary.
Peeling is often done using a machine peeler, especially for high-volume manufacturing operations. However, there’s a risk of losing a significant amount of flesh and unevenly shaped potatoes. For chips, traces of skin are often acceptable.
Cooling And Freezing Potatoes
After peeling, the potatoes will be cut, blanched, and pan-fried. Once the basic cooking operations are done, it’s time to store them in a freezer for at least 20 mins or until the final product is to be released in the market at -18 to -20 degrees Celsius. This is to preserve the quality and prevent ice crystal formation.
A chest-type freezer may be enough for small commercial producers. Large manufacturing plants may use conveyor-operated blast freezers, especially in a continuous processing setup.
Quality Control Procedures
Quality control procedures take place before and after processing potatoes.
- Before processing: The raw materials will be inspected, including the ingredients to be used alongside potatoes. Some of the ingredients are oils and spices.
- During processing: The potatoes will be inspected at every stage, including:
- Peeling – for instance, checking losses and waste disposal
- Washing – such as starch recovery
- Blanching – like temperature control
- Frying – including the frying time and temperature
- After processing: The finished goods will be inspected based on appearance, color, flavor, and size. Other laboratory parameters, such as moisture content and sensory quality, will also be inspected.
Harvesting potatoes should be done as soon as the tubers are mature enough. Then, they’ll be cured and stored for long-term keeping or until the manufacturing facilities require them. Processing potatoes consist of receiving, sorting, washing, peeling, trimming, cooking, and freezing. You may use this guide to understand each step if you want to produce potato-based products.
Interesting Related Article: “Complete New World Harvesting Guide“