Curing and Storing Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are not very sweet or moist when first dug. It takes six to eight weeks of proper curing and storage before they have the sweet, moist taste and texture desired when baked.
Although freshly harvested roots won’t directly bake into a great product, they can be candied or used in sweetened pies or casseroles.
After the roots are dug, they should be cured to heal the cuts and trigger development of the sugar-creating enzymes. Sweet potatoes are cured by storing in a warm, humid room for five to ten days. A temperature of 80°F to 85°F and a relative humidity of 80 percent to 90 percent are ideal. These exact conditions will be hard to establish around the home, so select a room or building that comes close to these conditions.
After curing, store roots at 55°F to 60°F for six to eight weeks. This storage further develops the sugars and maltose sugar-creating enzyme. This enzyme will really kick in while baking at 350°F to 375°F to develop the sweet, syrupy sugars. Stored cured roots may last several months or more. The length of time sweet potatoes can be held in storage without sacrificing quality will depend on the environment in which they are stored in. The conditions above are “ideal,” but sweet potatoes are held under a variety of environmental conditions, and quality and longevity in storage will vary accordingly.
Storage temperatures are very important. Long-term storage areas should be maintained at 55° to 60° with 85% relative humidity and with sufficient venting to produce a total volume change of air at least once a day. Above 60°, internal breakdown, shrinking, and sprouting can occur. Temperatures below 55° may cause hardcore, a disorder where a whitish, hard area appears in the cooked sweet potato. Properly cured and stored sweet potatoes can be held up to 12 months with little reduction in quality. Shrinkage occurs at 1 to 2% per month if cured, 2 to 5% if uncured. In some cultivars, pithiness also increases with length of storage.
At Vick Family Farms our storage and curing facilities are state of the art and allow us to bring to market the finest quality sweet potato available.