Oh sweet potato, oh sweet potato, how lovely is your orange flesh, fibrous skin, and bright, slightly earthy flavor. We could go on and on with a list about our favorite uses for sweet potatoes (in fact, we already have!), but today we are just here to talk about how to shop for and store sweet potatoes. Most root vegetables like raw sweet potatoes, carrots, and hearty winter squashes have a pretty long shelf life. As a rule of thumb, most raw root vegetables can be stored at room temperature for at least a week or two before they show any signs of bruising and spoiling. There are at least five different varieties of sweet potatoes, and they can all be stored the same way. The key is to start with very fresh sweet potatoes purchased from the grocery store or farmers market. They should be firm to the touch and free of decay, according to the United States Sweet Potato Council (yes, this is a very real, very wonderful organization).
How to store sweet potatoes
The best way to store your sweet potatoes is in a cool, dry, and dark area, like your pantry or the back corner on your kitchen countertop. Keep them in a bowl or basket so that they're self-contained, and always thoroughly wash and scrub their skin before you cook them. Don't store potatoes of any variety in the refrigerator, as the cold air can activate their sugars and starches, causing them to spoil faster. A simple sign of this structural change is when tiny white specks appear in raw sweet potatoes. Store them away from a heat source, too, per the U.S. Sweet Potato Council. And while you shouldn't put sweet potatoes in the refrigerator, you can, surprisingly, freeze sweet potatoes. Frozen sweet potatoes may be stored for up to 12 months. You must start with cooked sweet potatoes, which should be peeled and boiled. Once a fork can easily pierce their flesh, slice or mash the cooked sweet potatoes and top them off with a small amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice, which will preserve their vibrant orange color. Place the potatoes in the freezer in plastic bags and lay them flat.
Come dinnertime, Thanksgiving, or any other holiday where sweet potatoes are wanted on the table, thaw the potatoes for 24 hours in the freezer-safe bag in the refrigerator and then reheat them in the microwave. Better yet, add them to a casserole dish, top with marshmallows, and make the fastest-ever sweet potato casserole.
Storing cooked sweet potatoes
If you have leftover roasted or mashed sweet potatoes, store them in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. You can even precook and store baked sweet potatoes in the refrigerator the same way, or in a plastic bag if you don't have a container large enough to accommodate their rotund size. Then simply rewrap the taters in aluminum foil and bake them in the oven until they're warmed all the way through.
Have they gone bad?
The good thing about all produce is that it lets you know when it's gone bad. There's no guessing game. When it comes to figuring out if sweet potatoes have gone bad, look for obvious signs of discoloration, smooshed spots, or other rotting areas. If a sweet potato is wrinkled or shrinking, that's another sign that it's past its peak. Oh, and it will smell pretty funky, too. On the other hand, if a potato is sprouting eyes, that does not mean that it's gone bad. All you need to do is remove the sprouts by trimming them with a paring knife or sharp vegetable peeler. From here, they're free to be mashed, roasted, and baked for both savory and sweet dishes.