As grocery prices become more and more expensive, trying to make the most out of the food you have already bought is an increasing concern. While you don’t want to waste food, you should proceed with caution if you have sprouted potatoes.
Are sprouted potatoes safe to eat? Potatoes that have small sprouts are safe to eat but those with larger tentacles are not safe. A firm texture means the potatoes still retain their nutrients while soft or wrinkled potatoes mean their nutrients have gone to the growth of the sprouts and therefore should not be eaten.
What are sprouted potatoes?
At the grocery store, it makes more economical and practical sense to purchase a large bag of potatoes than to just buy one or two. And, while you probably won’t use that whole bag right away, potatoes are a staple food that is sure to be eaten eventually.
When left too long, however, potatoes will start to sprout. This is when parts of the potato, often called eyes, begin to grow sprouts that look like tentacles.
Sprouting is a natural part of the growth of potatoes. If you want to plant potatoes, it’s best to wait for them to sprout as this becomes the root structure.
Is it safe to eat potatoes with sprouts?
While sprouted potatoes are merely following the logical progression in their growth cycle, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should eat them. In fact, how much sprouting has occurred will be the determining factor on whether they are safe to eat.
For the most part, potatoes that have just started to sprout, which the sprouts are small ridges on the surface of the potatoes, are safe to eat. They should also be firm in texture.
Once the sprouts start to grow and resemble tentacles, this is when they pass into dangerous territory. Again, look for texture. In this case, mushy potatoes mean the nutrients are passed into the sprouts, in which case they are not safe to eat.
When do potatoes sprout?
Whether you’ve picked potatoes fresh from your garden or have just brought them home from the grocery store, you should keep these root vegetables in a cool, dark place. Aim for temperatures that are less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit, as anything warmer will trigger your potatoes to sprout.
In the winter you can get away with storing your potatoes in a pantry or a cool part of your home but in the summer, it’s best to get in the habit of immediately putting your potatoes into your refrigerator.
When left at room temperature, potatoes will start to sprout within a week or two, depending on how warm it is. So, while it’s okay to leave your potatoes out if you know you’re going to eat them soon, longer storage needs to be somewhere cool.
Risks of sprouting potatoes
Potatoes are part of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Vegetables in this family naturally produce a chemical called solanine.
Don’t panic just yet, as the chemical is harmless to humans. It is only dangerous if you eat large quantities of sprouted potatoes.
When potatoes are dormant, meaning they aren’t trying to grow, solanine is not an issue. However, once potatoes are exposed to a warm, bright environment for a long period of time, they start to produce higher levels of solanine.
In particular, the sprouts of potatoes have the highest concentration of solanine. This is why it’s okay to eat sprouted potatoes as long as their sprouts aren’t too large and you remove the sprouts ahead of time.
Another sign of an excess amount of solanine is when the potatoes start to turn green. Again, in moderate amounts, a light green potato won’t be toxic. However, you will want to cut off as much of the green as possible.
Lack of nutrients
A potato tuber is like a giant seed. It stores everything the plant needs to make more potatoes and it uses these nutrients to make sprouts that will grow and create a larger potato plant.
This is why old potatoes are wrinkly and soft. The nutrients have been transferred from the tuber to the sprouts to make more plants.
A potato that has depleted nutrients is not worth eating. Not only will it be unhealthy but the texture and taste will be incredibly off-putting.
How to properly eat sprouted potatoes
Cut off sprouts
If your potatoes have small sprouts and the overall texture is firm, you can still eat them. Take a sharp knife and be sure to cut off all the sprouts.
Dig out sprouts
Another option for removing the sprouts is to dig them out. Use the sharp part of a vegetable peeler to dig into the flesh of the potato to ensure the entire sprout is removed.
Remove soft spots
The texture is key to knowing if your potatoes are safe to eat. If there are any remaining soft spots on your potato, simply cut these parts out. The softness means the nutrients are gone, so there’s no point in eating those parts.
Throw it out
After all this work, you may not have much of a potato left. In this case, it might be simpler to toss the potatoes and start with fresh ones. Even though it’s hard to waste food, with sprouted potatoes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How to sprout your own potatoes
Even though sprouted potatoes are not meant for human consumption, they still have a purpose. If you want to plant potatoes, it’s best to sprout them first.
To do so, place your potatoes in a bright, sunny location such as in front of a window. The temperature should be warm and not exposed to chilly nighttime temperatures.
In just one week you should see sprouts and in three or four weeks, they will be ready for planting.
If you have sprouted potatoes, you can cut or dig out the small sprouts, as long as the potatoes are firm. However, once the potatoes become soft or wrinkly and the sprouts are larger, then they could be toxic to eat.