Can You Eat Green Potatoes?
Are green potatoes safe to eat? We dug into the science to find out.
It’s been a long week, and the one bright spot is that humble bag of potatoes in the pantry. Soon you’ll transform them into some truly delicious french fries. But what do you do when you pull out said bag of potatoes and find bright green spots on them? Have your french fry dreams died before they even began?
We break down the science behind why potatoes turn green and share how to still enjoy your favorite potato recipes safely. Learn more about food safety by reading about orange pith, that red stuff on lettuce, and what to do when baby carrots develop a white cast.
Why do potatoes turn green?
When potatoes are exposed to direct sunlight, they will naturally start to turn green. The green color comes from chlorophyll, a term you probably haven’t heard since middle school science class. Chlorophyll is a harmless compound that gives plants their green color.
Chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis, the process that plants use to feed themselves. Exposure to sunlight speeds up the production of chlorophyll in potatoes. This is why it’s important to store them in a dark area.
Are green potatoes safe to eat?
According to the National Capital Poison Center, green potatoes are not safe to eat. When chlorophyll increases in a potato, turning it green, it’s likely that the compound solanine has also increased. A higher level of solanine causes potatoes to taste bitter and can even lead to health problems.
When eaten in large quantities, this compound can lead to digestive issues like nausea and diarrhea, as well as headaches and neurological problems. However, it’s helpful to know that you’d have to eat a serious amount of green potatoes to start to feel these effects. That being said, a good rule when it comes to potatoes is this: If it tastes bitter, don’t eat it.
How to fix green potatoes
So does that mean that an entire bag of potatoes with green spots has to be trashed? Not exactly. If a small part of your potato has turned green, fear not. There is no need to toss the whole spud. Simple cut off the green part and use the rest of the potato safely. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it’s best to also remove the potato’s skin, because more solanine is found in the skin.
To prevent your potatoes from turning green too soon, always store them away from direct sunlight. A cool, dark place like the pantry or a cabinet is best. Basements make a great storage spot as well.
Need to use up some potatoes tonight? Find out if it’s safe to use sprouted potatoes.
- National Capital Poison Center: “Are Sprouted Potatoes Safe to Eat?”
- The United States Department of Agriculture: “Are green potatoes dangerous?”