Discovering that your potatoes have sprouted when you're in the middle of making dinner is frustrating on a good day. Should you run to the store for more? Should you eat them anyway? Should you just give up and order a pizza? Here's the scoop.
When It's Safe to Eat a Sprouted Potato
The good news is that potatoes are safe to eat, even after they've sprouted, so long as they are still firm to the touch and they don't look too wrinkly and shriveled. Most of the nutrients are still intact in a firm, sprouted potato. You can simply remove the sprouts from a firm potato and continue on with your recipe. There's no need to change your dinner plans.
As a potato sprouts, it converts starch to sugar to feed the new potato plant that will grow from the erupting sprouts. At the beginning of this process, you may find soft spots around what used to be the eyes and are now the sprouts. Just remove the sprouts, and any soft spots, and your potato should be fine to use.
When Not to Eat a Sprouted Potato
As the sprouting process progresses, the potato begins to shrivel, as more and more starch is converted to sugar and used in the growing sprouts. A wrinkled, shriveled, sprouted potato will have lost more of its nutrients, and it won't be very palatable. Bottom line: your recipes won't turn out the same, so it's best not to use your potatoes.
But What About Toxins in the Potato Sprouts?
Solanine and other glycoalkaloids are present in potato plants, and in the eyes and the sprout growth of a potato tuber. Both are toxic to humans, and can lead to a headache, vomiting and other digestive symptoms. This is why you want to remove the sprouts and eyes before you eat the potato. Solanine is concentrated in the eyes, sprouts and skin, but not the rest of the potato. So long as you remove these, you're unlikely to feel its effects.
If your potato has a green skin, be sure to remove the skins before you eat it.
But don't let this warning scare you off potatoes: you'd have to eat a lot of sprouts and green skins to make yourself sick.
How Can You Keep Potatoes from Sprouting?
Are you constantly finding sprouted potatoes in your pantry? It's essential to keep your potatoes in a cool, dry and dark place, if you're going to be storing them for a long time, and to keep them away from onions (which will cause them to sprout faster).
Potato growers often treat their potatoes in various ways to keep them from sprouting, but if you buy organic potatoes, or grow your own, you may need a few tips and tricks to make them last longer. Follow these simple storage suggestions to extend the storage life of your potatoes by weeks (or even months):
If you like to buy your potatoes in bulk, or harvest your own each fall, being a bit selective about the type of potato that you bu,y or grow, can also go a long way towards ensuring that your potatoes will keep well for the duration. As a general rule, dryer, late-harvest potatoes tend to keep best. Here are some potato varieties that you may want to experiment with. Many of these are heirloom varieties that have a long-proven reputation for being good keepers.
Homegrown potatoes need to be dried out (or cured) outdoors before they're suitable for long-term storage. If you skip this simple, but important, step, they won't keep for as long as they're supposed to. Here's what you need to know to cure your potatoes properly.
And while it may seem obvious, damaged potatoes won't keep well, either. Store good quality potatoes properly, and they'll be less likely to go bad or sprout prematurely.
Aside from all that advice, you'll find that adding a few new potato recipes to your dinner line up will go a long way towards helping you to use up your potatoes before they have a chance to sprout on you.