Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rotten Potatoes

We finally figured out the mystery of the gnats/fruit flies/whatever-the-heck-those-little-things-were that invaded our house at Christmastime and made the first weeks of winter more miserable for us than usual.

It was the rotten potatoes.

Saturday morning I made my usual trip to the grocery. As I was picking up a bag of potatoes, I had a case of deja vu; I remembered that in the not-too-distant past, I had bought a 5-lb. bag of taters and could not remember what had happened to them. I shrugged it off and carried on with the business at hand.

At home, I started to put the new bag away into my trusty wooden potato-and-onion bin. Now, I've known for a while that my bin is not really the best place to store my root vegetables. It's really become just a nice little piece of furniture and shelving for my smallest dining-room wall. It sits right next to a vent, so hot air blows on it in the winter. It also has a plastic see-through front on the drawers, and it faces out into our sunniest room, so sunlight comes in on the vegetables. Potatoes and onions generally don't last very long in direct light and heat, so I don't use the bin for its intended purpose much.

When I peeped into the bottom drawer, I could see an old bag of potatoes in there. They were sitting in a puddle of black goo. Crap. I DID buy a bag recently, and I didn't use them all, and they went bad. And apparently dissolved. Double crap.

Double crap, indeed. When I opened the drawer, a swarm of gnats came out, Mummy-style. We've been vexed by these gnats since mid-December; I blamed them on the poinsettias I had bought for the holidays. They might have come with the poinsettias, but they stayed for the potato goo.

Then the smell hit me. And oh my God, the smell. It was the smell of death. Of organic matter returning to the earth. It was a hundred sewage drains all concentrated into one little drawer of intensified rot. The drawer had mercifully kept the smell from invading my house as the potatoes liquified and turned into baby food for fruit-fly maggots, but once the drawer opened...the nastiness was unleashed.

And that's when the gagging started.

I thought quickly and grabbed an empty grocery bag and threw the potatoes in and tied it up tight. I hollered for Jason and, while retching over the kitchen sink, told him to (rolf) carry the whole bin out (blurp) to the trash (blech) because we'd never (guuuulp) be able to get the smell out.

Of course he laughed.

In 30-degree temperatures, every window in the house was opened and Lysol, Fabreeze, and Oust all got employed in the immediate area. Ainsley was ushered back to her room; if I could have wrapped us in haz-mat suits, I would have.

After the bin was carried outside, and the bag of potatoes was disposed of, the smell went away and life resumed. And the new bag of potatoes is being stowed in a cool, dark spot in the kitchen. At least I learn from my mistakes, fabulously stupid though they might be.

Now there is a piece of furniture missing in our dining room; the gaping hole on our smallest wall feels like a lost tooth that I keep running my tongue over. I have no idea what to put there, (NOT another potato and onion bin, natch) and no idea if I can hold out until our new Ikea store opens in March, as has been suggested to me. (Look out, Ikea! Here come the Cincinnatians!)

I do know that I have learned a lesson.

Where there is a fruit-fly invasion, there is fruit. And that fruit just might be turning into a plague-like abomination.


Karen said...

Hehehe...I don't have that problem with potatoes. Mine is usually a red pepper that I had optimistically purchased with the idea I'd cook something I saw on the Food Network. It never fails. Oh, and if you can't wait until March, there's already an Ikea down here... ;)

nothing can stop me now said...

Oh God... I just got done cleaning up a similar mess. In order to try and calm myself down afterward, I googled 'rotten potatoes and maggots' and stumbled upon your blog.

I had a bag of potatoes on a plate on the kitchen counter, forgot about them until tonight when I thought maybe a microwaved potato would be a good snack. I dug the plate out from under the mess that had accumulated, and behold, one of the potatoes had rotted through. When I lifted up the bag, there was a pool of black potato rot/juice on the plate with maggots swimming in it. I promptly screamed, made my boyfriend take out the trash, and scrubbed down the counter with bleach... and cannot shake the feeling that there are maggots crawling somewhere on me. =/

It's horrifying. A drawer would have been so much worse to deal with. I admire your strength in the face of horrifying decomposition. Rock on.

hopefuluk said...

ha ha ive just had the same problem with potatoes, except it was little flies that came out with the rotten smell and mushed tattys.just bleached it down and hoping for the best.i didnt even think there might be maggots in there now my skins crawling...ewwwww!

Juliettte said...

I bought a bag of potatoes that can be steamed in the microwave, and left them on the kitchen counter for a couple weeks, and decided to try them out, well, I didn't think anything of it at the time, until I smelt a NASTY god awful smell coming from where they were, and once I nuked them, and cut open the bag, did I realize what it was, so needless to say, no potatoes for me that evening, lol, I still shudder at the thought.

Next time I get them again, they are going straight into the fridge!

Anonymous said...

Ugh - this just happened to me. Question - how to CLEAN the mess out of my lovely wood vegetable bin :(

Honey said...

The same exact thing just happened to me... gag, uggh... grrr! After searching underneath cabinets, in corners, checking all my plants for mold in the potting soil, checking behind the garbage bin, cleaning and scrubbing under the kitchen sink and running a lemon peel throught he garbage disposal, I still had not found the horrid stench! I had decided there HAD to be a dead mouse in the attick...I walked out of the kitchen and reached for the light switch when my eye caught the adorable wooden potatoe / onion bin with the jaunty red roosters decorating the front and immediately froze. It couldn't be... no God please! I lifted the bag of potatoes trying to remember the last time I had used any out of this bag. Upon lifiting the potatoes, a rancid dark brown liquid resembling coca cola, poured onto my lovely clean kitchen floor all down my leg and onto my favorite flip flops! The SMELL...how can one describe the smell of liquid death? I stumbled, gagging and gasping for breath trying my best not to hurl, grabbed a garbage bag, tied it up in ten different knots and threw it out the back door...I have just stumbled, green faced and retching into my shower and scrubbed myself practically raw. Thank God there were no maggots, but the smell is everywhere! How to get it out? I threw out the potatoe bin, scrubbed my kitchen floor with Mr Clean antibacterial, and the smell is only worse! I rinsed the mop in hot water for at least 15 minutes then mopped again with bleach... no luck...I was so disgusted I went back into the shower, left the ceiling fan in the kitchen going and sprayed my favorite Febreez all over the place and when I got out of the 2nd shower the smell is still there. The only thing I could think of to do was to take appart the mop and put it in the washer and dump a whole box of baking soda over the floor. I am now hiding in my room, searched the net for an idea of what to do to get rid of the smell... I was happy to see I am not the only person to forget about a bag of potatoes but everyone else seems to have gotten rid of their smell... any ideas?

Want to laugh but may just cry!

neely said...

I, too, have witness the dark moment. I'm seriously going to burn nag champa until it suffocates the remaining gnats or kills me. I was thinking that maybe this happened because I was keeping the potatoes near the sink? I'm going to try buying single potatoes and keeping them near the oven. Loved your post.

Anonymous said...

being a drummer, i devised an easy solution for when my potatoes went rotten and deathlike - noseplugs! or more specifically, earplugs stuffed up your nose. you look ridiculous, but it makes it so much easier to clean when you aren't gagging.

Anonymous said...

OMG-THIS POTATO THING...well, ive been dealing w/ those little disgusting gnats, becouse they havant been that many. THEN today i really noticed them....googled up the problem..and thought, well i have no fruit, must be from a yucky inside drain. High tailed it to the hardware store, got a bottle of draino, and the owner suggested fly paper..Hhmmm, makes sense, better than spray. When i got home i really looked around, AND there i found them....rotting potatoes....however, they werent nearly as bad as some of the other descriptions...got rid of them, the container and put up the fly paper.....its taking time, but these gross little things are starting to adhere to the paper...BUT then, when i REALLY looked i found gnats along all the walls that i never really looked at. One by one swatting them dead, calling them vicious names as i did...Im sure it wont take too long to get rid of them although as i sit here in bed writing this, one just landed on my bare neck....uuuggghhhh...funny thing..i really should have known better..ive dealt w/ rotton smelly potatoes before, but NEVER had the gnaats...and maggots...oh Paleese..NO.