Can You Eat Sprouted Potatoes?

Here's why you might not want to.

We've all been there: You pick up some potatoes at the grocery store or farmers' market, set them on the counter as soon as you get home, and proceed to forget about them. And when you finally remember you have potatoes, you find out they've been quite busy and have sprouts poking out of them. Why do potatoes sprout, anyway? And how do we know when they're too far gone?

Why Do Potatoes Sprout?

Potatoes sprout when temperatures reach around 68 degrees F. In other words, that nice, stable temperature inside your house tricks potatoes into thinking it's spring — and time to sprout. The part of the potato plant we eat is its tubers, which store excess nutrients until spring when they convert those nutrients into energy and start growing sprouts.

Are Sprouted Potatoes Bad for You?

Sprouted potatoes do have the potential to be toxic because of a chemical called solanine. Potatoes and other nightshades, such as eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers, are naturally predisposed to produce solanine, which is toxic to humans if ingested in large quantities. When potatoes are dormant, solanine isn't an issue. But if potatoes aren't stored properly or kept in ideal growing conditions, they start producing solanine in their sprouts. The tubers themselves will also turn green if they're exposed to too much light, which signals solanine production as well.

Additionally, when potatoes start sprouting, their nutrients start fading away because they're being transformed into sugar. If they're left alone, they'll shrivel up and become unsafe to eat entirely.

Sprouted Potatoes on a white Surface
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Can You Eat Sprouted Potatoes?

Sprouted potatoes that are still firm, have relatively small sprouts, and don't show any wrinkles or shriveling are okay to eat, as long as you cut off the sprouted parts and soft spots.

However, there's still a chance you could get sick. If your potato is sprouted and shriveled up, then it's too far gone. Toss, it. Potato sprouts should not be eaten under any circumstances.

What Can You Do With Sprouted Potatoes?

If your potatoes are too far gone to eat, they haven't entirely gone to waste. They're growing anyway, so you can add them to your garden and they'll produce fresh tubers (i.e. perfectly edible potatoes) in the years to come. You can cut a well-sprouted potato into pieces, cutting to make sure each potato piece contains a sprout, and plant each piece as your would a seed in a garden plot.

How to Prevent Sprouted Potatoes

You can keep your potatoes from sprouting by storing them somewhere cool (not cold, like your refrigerator) and dark. If you don't have a dark space where you can store your potatoes, you can keep them inside of a paper bag to filter out the light.

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