Over the past couple of months, I have been noticing that when I open a bag of potatoes from the store, there is a strong chlorine odor. The first time this happened, it concerned me as I am not used to having this problem. I called the packaging company and asked about it.
It seems that it is a standard practice in our country for root crops to be given a wash with a solution containing chlorine dioxide. I did a search online about this. One of the easiest to read articles that I found on it is from a Cornell Cooperative Extension Publication called "Integrated Crop & Pest Management Guidelines for Commercial Vegetable Production." The link I have highlighted if for Chapter 10 of the publication which deals specifically with the chlorine dioxide issue.
The wash is used to clean the vegetables and treat them to prevent soft rot & bacterias in an effort to lengthen the shelf life of the vegetables. The chlorine dioxide wash is also used in the storage containers where the vegetables are stored until packaging to prevent cross-contaminaton.
What the packaging company told me was that if the plastic bag the potatoes come in is damp looking inside, then the potatoes are fresh. These fresh harvested potatoes, when the bag is opened, may have the chlorine odor as they have not been stored long enough for the odor to wear off. The chlorine dioxide in the potatoes is not enough to cause any harm to us, according to all the information I have read.
I wonder about it though. What about people who have a sensitivity to chlorine? The use of chlorine dioxide is not a general knowledge that people are taught. How many people eat these potatoes, skins and all, never knowing that the chlorine dioxide was used?
We have decided that in the spring, we will be planting our own root crops. There are natural ways to store them and prevent spoilage that eliminate the need for using chemicals.
Root crops are perfect for over-wintering. They can be stored right there in the garden area. The Colorado State University's extension service office has a paper titled, "Storage of Home Grown Vegetables" which give detailed instructions for several methods.
A method that I will be using is to utilize a "cold room." If you have an out building where the produce can be protected both from the weather and also from rodents or other animals, you can use it to store your baskets or bins of vegetables. Something that is in excess in rural areas is the non-working refrigerators & freezers. People just do not want to pay to have these hauled off to a landfill. Nearly each week, you can find these gems on Freecycle. Being that our out buildings are not secure enough to prevent rodents or other animals from getting to our harvest, we need another way of protecting them. In your outbuilding, barn, or large shed place old refrigerators or freezers laying on their back so that they now have a lid that you lift up like a chest freezer. Clean the inside very well. You may even want to sprinkle a bit of food-grade Diatomaceous Earth in the bottom to help prevent any insects. The vegetables can be placed in bushel baskets and stored in these bins. They will be both protected from the wildlife and also from the drastic weather changes. If you are concerned about moisture, you can eleminate the problem by removing the doors (lids) from the bins and replacing them with old screen doors window screens that are heavy enough to prevent a rodent or other critter from getting through to the vegetables.
A popular way of storing the root crops over winter in to make a bin near the garden using straw bales for the sides, adding some straw inside to place the vegetables onto, then covering with more straw for insulation. Though this method is a good sound one, there is a problem in the fact that rodents love to nest in the straw during winter. You run the risk of providing the rodents with now only a nice warm bed, but one with a readily available food supply!
We store our animals' winter feed in the old appliances with great results. We have never had any problems with rodents or pests in the grain. It is also nice knowing that by repurposing the appliances, we are not adding to the landfill problems.