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Why can you get poisoned by eating potato sprouts?

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The shoots start to grow if you leave them for a long time in conditions that favor their development, such as heat and light.

Photo: Sanjay Acharya / Creative Commons

When you leave your potatoes forgotten for a long time, you may find them with some sprouts. Are they edible? How true is it that eating them could kill you?

Before deciding if you should just cut the sprouts and cook them or you should get rid of your potatoes, you should know why when they are toxic when they have sprouts and what care you should take.

When they turn green

Those little eyes that you can see in the potato are nodes of the stem that would turn into branches and leaves if the potato was on the ground.

Sprouts too they start to grow if you leave them for a long time in conditions that favor their development, such as heat and light. Thus they are best stored in a cool, dry, dark place.

Chlorophyll and its color does not make them harmful

The light favors the production of chlorophyll, which is why they turn green. This process with chlorophyll is not harmful and causes more beneficial minerals such as iron to be found as in green leafy vegetables, says Caroline Wright, Senior Lecturer in Horticulture, Nottingham Trent University.

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Toxicity in sprouting potatoes

Light and heat not only favor the production of chlorophyll, they also trigger the increase in solanine production and chaconina, chemicals that can poison to the people if ingested in large quantities.

Solanine, Wright explains, concentrates under the skin of potatoes along with chlorophyll and also in the newly developed shoots.

Symptoms of Solanine Poisoning:

Eat sprouted potatoes during pregnancy also can increase the risk of birth defects in the baby some studies point out.

Is pulling the sprouts enough?

Eliminate sprouts and green area of the shell, in addition to fry them reduces the chance of a toxic reaction. But consider if it is worth the risk, in addition, the potato is less nutritious because the growth of sprouts assimilates sugars and nutrients.

Don’t risk eating any potato with extensive sprout growth and dark green spots. As a precaution, it is not recommended to eat green potatoes or those that have begun to sprout.

To avoid waste, Wright recommends removing the shoots and green skin, boiling them, and feeding them to the birds.

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