Is It Safe to Eat a Potato That Has Sprouted?

— Written By Lethia Lee and last updated by Patricia Burch

This is a question I have been wanting to know the answer to for a long time and now I want to share the answer with you. If there is anyone out there with this same question bugging you, I hope this information will help.

When you discover that your potatoes have sprouted when you are in the middle of making dinner that makes for a frustrating day. Should you run to the store for more? Or should you eat them anyway? Should you just give up and order a pizza? Here’s the answer. If they are still firm to the touch and they don’t look too wrinkled 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 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.

Toxins 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. 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.

So how do you prevent sprouting? If you are constantly finding sprouted potatoes in your pantry, make sure they are in a cool, dry and dark place if you’re going to be storing them for a long time. 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 go a long way towards ensuring that your potatoes will keep well for the duration. As a general rule, dried, late-harvest potatoes tend to keep best.

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. 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 this advice, you’ll find that adding a few new potato recipes to your dinner menus will go a long way toward helping you to use your potatoes before they have a chance to sprout.

For more information on eating sprouted potatoes contact Lethia_Lee@ncsu.edu. or 910.592-7161