Sprouted Potatoes and Food Safety

Sprouted potatoes on wooden table
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In This Article

Discovering that your potatoes have sprouted when you're in the middle of making dinner is frustrating on a good day. If you are unsure if you need to toss them out or eat them anyway, learn the scoop about sprouted potatoes.

Food Safety

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. 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.

What to Avoid

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. Avoid very shriveled or wrinkled potatoes.

Toxins

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. It 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. If your potato has green skin, be sure to remove the skins before you eat it. So long as you remove these, you're unlikely to feel its effects.

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.

Illustration: Miguel Co. © The Spruce, 2019.

How to Prevent Sprouting

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. 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 buy 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. Look for 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.
  • 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.