Potatoes are a crop that quickly becomes a staple on the homestead, but as we all know, not every potato you harvest has the potential to last or go into storage. Some potatoes become soft and mushy; the challenge is what to do with these soft potatoes. Fortunately, staying true to the homesteading ethos of “use everything,” we can put soft potatoes to use and still get value from them.
Soft potatoes can be eaten, planted, given away for immediate use, used as animal feed, prepared for storage, or added to the compost pile to give nutrients back to the soil for planting next year’s potato crop. Soft potatoes must be evaluated to determine their best use on the homestead.
We will discuss several ways to utilize soft potatoes on the homestead, turning what might seem like a loss into a gain. From storage and preservation techniques to sustainable practices, we will share how to make use of soft potatoes and discover how they can be a valuable part of your homestead.
6 Uses For Soft Potatoes On The Homestead
Every crop on the homestead represents effort, time, and resources that have been invested into the harvest. It makes sense to get the best return on your investment by using every part of the crop yield as you can, including potatoes that are soft immediately at harvest or that turn soft quickly after harvest.
Each potato pulled from the earth holds value and potential, from the firmest tubers to the softest. But what uses can you have for those potatoes that turn soft? Are they destined for the compost pile, or are there other uses for this part of the crop?
Soft potatoes might not be the first choice for a gourmet meal, but on the homestead, where resourcefulness and sustainability are key, they become an opportunity rather than a problem. Nothing goes to waste when you are a homesteader, and soft potatoes are no exception.
Understanding why potatoes go soft is key to learning more about potatoes and possibly minimizing this problem on the next potato crop.
Why Do Potatoes Go Soft?
Soft potatoes are those that have lost their firmness and rigidity, often becoming pliable to the touch. The skin often feels a bit more leathery, and the potato flesh beneath is soft rather than firm.
This softening can occur for various reasons, and while they may not be the ideal choice for cooking, they are far from useless on the homestead.
Some of the common reasons potatoes become soft are as follows.
- Improper storage. Exposure to light, warmth, or moisture can cause potatoes to soften. Understanding proper storage techniques on the homestead is essential to preserving the harvest.
- Age. Over time, potatoes naturally lose moisture and become soft. This is a normal process, and these potatoes can still be used in various food dishes or in other ways.
- Disease. Certain diseases can cause potatoes to soften. It’s important to recognize the signs of disease and separate affected potatoes to prevent contaminating other potatoes.
- Soil health. Ensuring healthy soil can reduce the occurrence of diseases that cause softening in potatoes.
- Harvest timing. Harvesting potatoes at the right time can minimize softening and maximize storage life.
Potatoes can be soft right out of the ground, making it important to check each potato after harvest and periodically check stored potatoes to identify those becoming soft. Soft potatoes will yield to gentle pressure.
A visual inspection will reveal changes in skin texture and color. Soft spots or wrinkling can be signs of softening. If the potato has a foul or off smell, it can indicate spoilage. These potatoes should be discarded or composted rather than used for any other purpose.
Once you have identified the soft potatoes, it is time to evaluate their condition and put them to good use.
Method 1: Cook Soft Potatoes
If the potatoes have just started becoming soft, they can still be used as food in your homestead kitchen and a valuable nutritional resource for your family.
Soft potatoes can be set aside for immediate use in the kitchen. Use any soft potatoes from your harvest or your potato storage within a few days to get the best out of them in your dishes.
Soft potatoes may not be the first choice for every recipe, but with a little care and creativity, they can be transformed into delicious dishes on the homestead. Here’s how to prepare soft potatoes for cooking:
- Washing the potatoes. Gently wash soft potatoes to remove any dirt, being careful not to damage the softened skin.
- Cutting the potatoes. Use a sharp knife to cut soft potatoes, removing any overly soft or discolored spots. Cutting them into uniform sizes ensures even cooking.
Soft potatoes can undergo some pre-cooking processes to further prepare them for use in your meals. Soft potatoes can be partially boiled to firm them up before using them in recipes like mashed potatoes or potato salads. A quick blanch can help preserve the texture of soft potatoes, especially if you plan to freeze them for later use.
Soft potatoes can absorb flavors well, so use fresh herbs and spices from the garden to enhance their taste. The following are some ideas for incorporating soft potatoes into the dishes you have planned for your family.
- Soups and Stews. Soft potatoes are perfect for thickening soups and stews, adding both flavor and substance.
- Casseroles. Incorporate soft potatoes into casseroles, where their texture can blend seamlessly with other ingredients.
- Mashes and Purees. Soft potatoes can be easily mashed or pureed, making them ideal for side dishes or baby food.
- Soft Potato Pancakes. Grate soft potatoes, mix with egg, flour, and seasonings, then pan-fry for a tasty breakfast treat.
- Potato Soup. Use soft potatoes to thicken a hearty potato soup flavored with bacon, onions, and cream.
- Stuffed Potato Skins. Scoop out the insides of soft potatoes, mix with cheese and herbs, then bake until crispy.
- Oven Roasted Potatoes. If the potatoes are not too soft, they can be sliced into wedges and roasted in the oven as an accompaniment to the meat component of the meal.
Soft potatoes may require a gentle touch, but they offer a world of possibilities in the homestead kitchen. Soft potatoes can be a delightful and nourishing part of your homestead’s culinary landscape.
Understanding how to prepare them, from washing and cutting to seasoning and cooking, allows for making the most of soft potatoes as a valuable ingredient. In the hands of a resourceful homesteader, soft potatoes are not a problem but a delicious opportunity.
Method 2: Preserve And Store Soft Potatoes
While it may seem counterintuitive, soft potatoes can become part of your long-term food storage strategy. Soft potatoes may not be suitable for all preservation methods, but they can still be valuable on the homestead for storage if prepared correctly.
- Freezing. Soft potatoes can be blanched and frozen for later use in soups and stews.
- Dehydrating. Dehydrating soft potatoes can turn them into potato flakes or powder, perfect for thickening dishes.
- Cannin. Soft potatoes can be canned in stews or as part of a mixed vegetable preserve.
By understanding how to prepare, preserve, and store soft potatoes, you can extend their usefulness and progress toward a sustainable, waste-free lifestyle. Employing proper storage techniques and creative preservation methods can help you transform soft potatoes into a valuable food resource.
Method 3: Plant Soft Potatoes
If you decide the potatoes are too soft to be used in your cooking, another option is to use these potatoes as seed potatoes to start your next potato crop.
As with cooking soft potatoes, you must evaluate them to establish if they are suitable for chitting and planting to grow a potato plant. If the potato is very soft, it is probably too far gone to be used for replanting. If the potato shows signs of disease, rather use it in the compost pile than try to re-grow the plant. Ensure that the soft potato is free from rot or foul odors before selecting it for sprouting.
If the potato looks healthy from the outside, you can prepare it for sprouting. The potato may already have eyes on it, from which roots will sprout, but you can also try a process called chitting, which encourages the potato to develop eyes and start sprouting.
Chitting involves placing the potato upright, not touching other potatoes, and leaving it in a cool location exposed to plenty of light. An old egg carton is the ideal chitting tray, as the potato can nestle in the carton cups, separating it from neighboring potatoes.
A cool location with a temperature of about 50°F or 10°C is ideal for getting the potato to develop sprouts. The ideal location is a cool cupboard with artificial grow lights to give the potatoes round-the-clock light to encourage chitting.
Once the potatoes have sprouted, you can plant them by following the process below.
- Cut the potato. If the soft potato is large, you may cut it into sections, ensuring each piece has at least one healthy eye or sprout.
- Drying. Allow cut pieces to dry for a day to reduce the risk of rot.
- Planting depth. Plant the soft potato pieces about 3 inches deep in well-drained soil.
- Watering and care. Provide regular watering and care, being mindful of potential challenges due to the initial softness.
Challenges For Planting Soft Potatoes
Planting soft potatoes does come with risks and challenges due to the compromised state of the potato. You must evaluate your soft potatoes and decide if it is worth the effort to try and grow the potato or use it in another way.
The following are the challenges and risks of sprouting soft potatoes.
- Reduced vigor. Soft potatoes may have less vigor than firmer seed potatoes, so growth may be slower or less robust.
- More monitoring is required. Keep a close eye on the plants for signs of disease or other issues, as soft potatoes may be more susceptible to problems.
- Soft potatoes may rot during sprouting. There is always the risk of the potatoes beginning to rot when chitting or sprouting soft potatoes.
It is certainly possible to plant soft potatoes, but success depends on the cause of the softness and the care taken in the planting process. While it may present challenges and is not without risks, planting a soft potato can be a rewarding endeavor that reflects the creativity and resilience of the homesteader.
Method 4: Give Soft Potatoes Away
Generosity and a sense of community are part of the homesteading mindset, and rather than soft potatoes going to waste, you can share them with friends, family, and neighbors.
If you have too many soft potatoes to use in your own household before they become too soft, giving them away is a method of using the potatoes for the benefit of others.
Be sure to inform your gift recipient that the potatoes must be used within a certain time frame to prevent spoilage. A good addition to the potato gift is to share some of your favorite recipes or ways of using soft potatoes with the person you offer them to and use it as an opportunity to build relationships and the homesteading spirit.
Another option is to cook the potatoes yourself as part of a meal and invite people around to enjoy the fare with your family. Building relationships in your community is part of homesteading, and what better way to achieve this goal than around a table with a hearty meal?
Method 5: Feed Soft Potatoes To Livestock
Soft potatoes can become a nutritious food source for livestock on the homestead. Some care should be exercised when feeding these potatoes to your animals, as some farmyard animals require the potatoes to be cooked rather than offered raw.
Examine the potatoes to see if they are suitable for livestock consumption. If the potatoes have started to turn green or they are beginning to rot, they should not be given to your animals to eat.
Green potatoes produce a toxin that can be harmful to humans and animals when consumed, and rotten potatoes can introduce digestive problems to your livestock.
Soft potatoes make excellent feed for cattle, horses, sheep, and goats and can be given raw as a food supplement for these animals.
Pigs and poultry should not be fed raw potatoes since they contain solanine, which can harm these animals when consumed in large quantities. You can feed soft potatoes to poultry and pigs, but the potatoes should be boiled and the water drained before serving them as food to these animals.
Method 6: Composting Soft Potatoes
Composting soft potatoes is the final resort when the potatoes are unsuitable for human or animal consumption and not viable for sprouting.
Potatoes are the storage system for the potato plant and contain a dense amount of nutrients. These nutrients can be recycled into your compost to produce a nutrient-rich gardening resource to grow next season’s crop.
The best way to compost potatoes is to cut them into quarters and toss them into your composting system. Cutting the potatoes into smaller chunks increases the rate at which they will break down and release their nutrients to the compost and prevents the potatoes from sprouting in the compost pile.
Using soft potatoes in this way ensures the effort and resources that went into growing the potato are not lost to your homestead but used differently to promote healthy growth on the next crop.
Soft potatoes may seem to be a loss or an insignificant part of the harvest, but they can be a valuable resource in the waste-not-want-not philosophy of homesteading. Often overlooked or discarded, these humble tubers have revealed themselves as a usable and valuable resource.
Soft potatoes can be transformed from a challenge into an opportunity, from a loss into a gain. They become a part of the family table, a connection to the community, or provide nutrients to future food-growing efforts. On the homestead, nothing is truly wasted, and everything has value. Even the softest potato has its place and adds value.