Food

Is it safe to eat sprouted potatoes?

Dear Cooks:

Is it safe to eat potatoes when the eyes have sprouted? I have heard that they can be poisonous but have a hard time believing it – what’s the scoop?

Thanks,

Bob A.

Dear Bob:

A sprout of any size can be toxic, but you’d have to eat many sprouts to get sick. Potato sprouts are considered toxic due to their potentially high concentration of glycoalkaloids, which can exert their toxic effects on the nervous system by interfering with the body’s ability to regulate acetylcholine, a chemical responsible for conducting nerve impulses. Phew – got that?

In addition, when potatoes sprout, the starch in the potatoes is converted into sugar. If the potato is firm, it has most of the nutrients intact and can be eaten after removing the sprouted part. However, if the potato is shrunken and wrinkled, it should not be eaten.

Sometimes potatoes develop a green tinge – a potato exposed to light, sprouted or unsprouted, may itself have an increased concentration of glycoalkaloids. If this is the case, the toxic area will turn green. You can cut the green part off and eat the rest of the potato.

When buying potatoes, pick firm ones and do not buy if they have sprouted or have a green tint to the skin. As for storing,  keep potatoes in a cool dry spot for longest storage.

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