Sugars are a major concern for the potato industry. As consumers, we demand a year-round supply of high quality potatoes to eat. When processed, we expect the perfect, blond chips and French fries we are addicted to. However, to ensure this year-round supply, tubers must be stored at carefully controlled temperatures and humidity’s for up to 9 months to maintain the balance of sugars needed to ensure acceptable processing quality. This is a major challenge for the industry, as potato tubers are living, breathing entities that seem to have their own agendas when it comes to storing them for longer than they are designed to be kept.
If we store potatoes at temperatures that are too high, the tubers soon realize that it is time for a new year to begin and within a few months they adjust their internal physiology and sugar balance to produce sprouts and start to grow. On the other end of the scale, if we store potatoes at temperatures that are too low, we can slow everything down and store tubers for long periods without sprouting, but only at the expense of disrupting the balance among the complex of sugars that give tubers their characteristic flavors and, worse yet, cause chips and fries to turn dark brown when they are processed! To find the middle ground where we can have long term storage without disrupting the delicate balance of sugars needed for taste and processing, we need tools that enable us to monitor what sugars are present and how these change under different storage conditions. (more…)