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Prevent potatoes from sprouting

Nip potato sprouts in the bud with essential oils

Potatoes are hormonal. Hormones keep them in dormancy, and also tell them when to sprout, despite your best efforts to properly store them in a cool, dark place.

Nora Olsen is an Extension potato specialist at the University of Idaho. She was part of a research team looking for an organic method to stop the sprouting without affecting the rest of the potato tissue.  They found several essential oils that seem to do the trick.

"We have done almost every essential oil you can think of," she says. "But obviously, some of the oils are very easy to have access to, mint oil, clove oil, things like that, that can actually then be volatilized, and have high enough concentrations that it would impact the sprout of the potato."

Specifically, they found that spearmint oil, peppermint oil, and clove oil suppressed sprouting by physically damaging rapidly dividing cells in the sprout. It’s best to apply the oil just as the bud is developing, because the longer the sprout becomes, the more difficult it is to control.

Olsen says the application method depends on what kind of essential oil you’re using.

"Some we can actually heat up and it makes a true fog, or a vapor, and then it will come in contact with that very sensitive tissue, and it will kill the tissue in that area," says Olsen. "Some products you can put in water that you can spray on the potatoes, or you can wick it on. Mint oils are great ones to put on some sort of cotton swab or blotter paper."

Some potato varieties are more aggressive sprouters than others, so you’ll have to apply the oil every two-to-three-weeks. Olsen says the potatoes might smell like your toothpaste, but they won’t taste like it.

Learn more about reining in the potato sprouts

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