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I'm talking about potatoes which have gone somewhat soft and put out shoots about 10cm long.

Other online discussions suggest it's reasonably safe and the majority of us have been peeling and eating soft sprouty spuds for years. Is this correct?

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store potatoes with apples to avoid this: lifehacker.com/5954159/… –  chrisjlee Oct 23 '12 at 19:48

9 Answers 9

up vote 57 down vote accepted

Not safe enough for me to try it. Potatoes actually contain a very dangerous toxin called solanine. This toxin is concentrated enough in the green parts in the plant to cause solanine poisoning. This includes the sprouts/eyes, and the potato itself if it's green.

This article from the New York Times health guide indicates that it is something to be taken seriously. Per this article, if the sprouts have been removed, and the potato is not green then it is safe to eat as far as solanine poisoning is concerned.

However, a potato as far gone as you have described sounds disgusting. A soft potato is on its way to going bad. Where I am from, potatoes are cheap enough that it's just not worth the gross factor for me to eat a potato that has 10 cm sprouts and is squishy. I do eat potatoes that have little nub sprouts on them and that are slightly less than firm, after removing the sprouts of course.

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Just to add to this amazing answer, if your potato has a small green layer, it's safe to eat, as long as you make sure you remove all the green parts. Otherwise, just throw it out. –  Edwin May 26 '12 at 17:55
    
To add to what @Edwin said: leaving a potato in sunlight will make it turn green; that's chlorophyl, and it's okay to eat. That's different from the green from solanine, which isn't okay to eat. –  Pete Becker Mar 6 at 14:21
    
@PeteBecker, my understanding is that the green is caused exclusively by chlorophyll, and chlorophyll content of the potato correlates with solanine content, though they are produced by separate processes. Note however, that solanine is concentrated near the skin of the potato and can be significantly reduced by peeling. More info –  Muhd May 20 at 3:01

My father who was a farmer told me that if they are not green from inside (they are still yellow) you can eat them.

I personally remove the sprout(s) peal them and if they are yellow cook them!!!

Nothing bad happened to me so far and I ve done it many times!!

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Potatoes are simple, but 10cm is obscene, throw them out.

Potato safety 101

  • Don't eat the sprouts, just cut them off (they taste bad anyway). Unless they're more than a few cm.
  • Don't eat potatoes that have any green tint to their skin [1].
  • Don't eat potatoes that are soft [2].

Tips

  • Keep your potatoes dry
  • Keep your potatoes in a dark place
  • If you store potatoes well over winter, they won't sprout and will sweeten as the starches turn to sugar and the flavor will become more complex and earthy. Stored potatoes are delish.

Notes

[1] This is difficult to see on purple/blue potatoes, so just eat them fresh.

[2] You don't want your potatoes to be hard, you want them to be firm to the touch. Don't be afraid to give them a bit of a squeeze. As an exception, "new potatoes", which are just very young and small potatoes with thin skins, are usually a bit softer.

Source: My friend worked on a potato farm.

Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare or food safety professional.

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My Dad grew up on a potato farm and he warned us about green potatoes but we were allowed to eat firm ones that had sprouted as long as we trimmed off the eyes. I don't think storing your potatoes with herbs or essential oils would be a good idea unless you wanted your potato dishes to taste of that stuff.

I'm fascinated by the comment about not storing potatoes with onions because I always have.

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The solanine is found in the green skin and also highly concentrated in the eyes, which form sprouts.

Solanine is highly toxic, but is usually found in really small quantities. You would have to eat a lot of it to kill you. But it's still probably not a good idea to eat in general.

Toss any crazy sprouting potatos out, learn the proper way to store them. You wont have that problem....

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I know not to eat a green potato, but sprouted ones are no big deal. Just trim off the sprouts. Knives comment was really funny...lol!

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From http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-Potatoes-from-Sprouting-in-Storage:

  • Put the potatoes in a paper bag. Store in a cool, dark place. Use within a week or two of purchasing.
  • Make a muslin bag filled with a mixture of dried lavender, sage and rosemary and place this in the paper bag with the potatoes. Research has shown that the oils in these herbs help to prevent the rot and decomposition of potatoes.
  • Try essential oils. Research undertaken at the University of Idaho has shown that the essential oils of clove, spearmint and peppermint can control potato sprouting organically.
  • Avoid keeping potatoes too long during late winter/early spring; this is the time when they want to sprout because they want to grow.
  • Keep apples and pears away from the potatoes as they will hasten the sprouting process. However, note that there is conflicting evidence on the role of apples with potatoes; some people believe that the ethylene in apples promotes sprouting, whilst others believe it retards sprouting. In researching for this article, the initial author found that the preponderance of those who believe that the apple works appear to be folk wisdom derived, whilst the non-supporters of apples appear to be scientifically based. You be the judge.
  • Sprouting in potatoes converts the potato starch into sugar, preparing the potato for new growth.

  • Never leave potatoes stored in plastic; this encourages sweating and will increase the chances of sprouting and rotting.

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It is safe to eat a sprouted potato if it is still firm (source: University of Illinois); however, don't expect it to act the way an unsprouted potato would. Part of the starch will have converted to sugar.

Be sure to store potatoes somewhere cool and dry with good air circulation. Also, keep them away from onions.

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Why keep them away from onions? Do the onions speed sprouting in a way similar to how apples slow it? –  Daniel Bingham Jul 17 '10 at 2:36
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@Daniel Bingham: "Avoid storing potatoes with onions because, when close together, they produce gases that spoil both." from ehow.com/how_3480_store-potatoes.html but I've seen the same advice from several other sources also –  Dinah Jul 17 '10 at 6:29
    
@Dinah Interesting, good to know! –  Daniel Bingham Jul 17 '10 at 6:45

Other online discussions suggest it's reasonably safe and the majority of us have been peeling and eating soft sprouty spuds for years. Is this correct?

Um... Well, I grew up eating them. Towards the end of winter, all the potatoes looked like that. We snapped off the sprouts, ate the firmer ones, and saved the rest for planting.

We didn't die. I don't think. Unless this is all a dream, the last twenty years merely the illusion of my dying, spasming, potato-poisoned brain.

That said, if you have a choice, I would stick with potatoes that haven't sprouted...

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FWIW... If you store apples with your potatoes, the potatoes are less likely to sprout. –  Shog9 Jul 17 '10 at 0:20
    
This page says the opposite: wikihow.com/Stop-Potatoes-from-Sprouting-in-Storage –  Dinah Jul 26 '10 at 17:16
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@Dinah: I'm speaking from personal experience, so I guess that falls under his "folk wisdom" dismissal. There has been some research into the matter (although it appears to be somewhat inconclusive as to whether ethylene alone - the primary gas released by ripening apples - has a use in long-term potato storage). Regardless, it's easy enough to test yourself: put an apple and a potato in a paper bag, and store separately (in cool, dark place) from a potato by itself; check periodically and note how sprouts develop. As for the essential oils suggestion... I wouldn't waste them on taters! –  Shog9 Jul 26 '10 at 17:36
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This article from America’s Test Kitchen have proven by experiment that storing potatoes with apples have positive effect. After 5 weeks the potatoes stored with apples were still fine, and the ones stored without apples where almost all starting to sprout. –  awe Aug 20 '13 at 6:55

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