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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Making Brown Potato Chips Disappear

Like a lot of vegetables, you can buy potatoes all year long. That’s because of modern refrigeration that allows us to keep vegetables fresh for days, weeks, or even months.

But there’s something tricky about keeping potatoes in cold storage for a long time. After they are dug, potatoes can be stored inside cold refrigerators to be preserved. But cold temperatures can cause problems for potatoes. It causes the sugars inside them to change, and they become sweeter.  This can cause the inside of fried and roasted potatoes to turn brown—and bitter.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have been investigating this problem. They found that a gene called invertase causes the potatoes to become sweeter in cold storage.

At the ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, Wisconsin, scientists found that the invertase (pronounced "in ver tace") gene produces an enzyme that causes the sugars to change and make the potatoes sweeter. An enzyme is a special type of protein that starts and speeds up chemical reactions important to many functions and products in living organisms.

They discovered that stopping the gene and the enzyme from working makes it possible to store potatoes at cold temperatures without causing the potatoes to turn brown or become bitter. 

That’s good news for those of us who like French fries, chips, and other potato products that taste good and don’t turn brown

Sharon Durham , Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff

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Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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