It’s happened to all of us: We reach for a potato to whip up a deliciously comforting dish, only to find it’s developed a green hue. It might just be in small patches or sunken into the pulp under the skin. Obviously, we then find ourselves questioning whether it’s OK to eat a potato with green skin.
As much as we hate telling anyone to give up on plans to enjoy some potatoes, it turns out we should avoid eating any with a green tint. The food and agriculture experts at North Dakota State University (NDSU) explain that they become this shade due to the chlorophyll in them reacting to light. Although harmless on its own, the color also indicates that another toxic substance known as solanine has started to form in the spuds.
In nature, the bitter taste of solanine keeps insects and animals away. For us, it can cause some nasty side effects if we eat too much of it — including abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, headache, and increased heart rate. The bitter flavor usually keeps us from consuming enough to make us sick, but we can also accidentally cover it up with extra seasoning and ingredients.
One woman found that out the hard way last year when a bowl of mashed potatoes sent her to the ER with solanine poisoning. Experts claim that her reaction was rare and that most people would need to consume much higher amounts for symptoms to start, but everyone is different. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
According to “Dr. Potato” (a team of experts from the Idaho Potato Commission), if the green spots are light and haven’t seeped into the rest of the spud, we can trim that section and peel the rest of the skin off to eat it safely. If the shade is darker and spread under any part of the skin, you should definitely discard the whole thing.
Storing our potatoes properly will lessen the chance of dealing with this color-changing issue at all. Make sure to stick them in a cool, dark place. Cupboards away from any warm appliances, like the fridge or dishwasher, work well. A basement or cellar is even better, if you have one. And of course, check potatoes at the store for any signs of green before putting them in your cart.
Now let’s all hope we never have to bid adieu to a scrumptious spud that’s turned on us again.