Can You Eat Potato Eyes?

published Oct 13, 2022
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Sprouted Potatoes on a white Surface
Credit: Getty Images/ Catherine Falls Commercial

The potatoes have eyes! It sounds like a low-budget horror movie — or what you might find if you look in the bottom of my pantry after I’ve forgotten a bag of Russets. Greenish potatoes with little white sprouts, or eyes, occur when the potato is ready to start its next cycle of growth.

Those little tubers can be planted and grown into new potato plants. But can you eat them? The short answer is no, you shouldn’t eat potato sprouts. However, if they’re small and limited in number, you may cut them out and salvage the rest of the spud.

What Are Potato Eyes?

Potato eyes are sprouts, and they occur when the potato is ready to begin its next phase of life: growing new potatoes. While they may look innocuous, these sprouts contain concentrated amounts of two kinds of glycoalkaloids: solanine and chaconine, both of which are natural toxins that, when eaten, can cause gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea, according to Poison Control. While the entire potato contains glycoalkaloids, the highest concentrations are found in the leaves, flowers, sprouts, and skin.

Are Sprouted Potatoes Safe to Eat?

While the sprouts themselves are not safe for human consumption, you may be able to save a potato that only has a sprout or two. Use a paring knife to remove the entire sprout. A peeler will only get the surface, so make sure to use a knife to really exorcize the sprout from the potato.

What About Green Potatoes?

Potatoes turn green when they’re exposed to sunlight and begin producing chlorophyll. While green potatoes are harmless, the color can be an indicator of higher levels of glycoalkaloids, so proceed with caution. It’s best to thoroughly peel greenish potatoes before cooking them.

How to Store Potatoes Properly

Potatoes can be stored for weeks, even months, if done properly. Remove potatoes from any plastic packaging and store in breathable material, like a basket or paper bag. This will help airflow and reduce the build-up of moisture, which can cause potatoes to spoil. Store potatoes in a dark place at approximately 45°F to 55°F — any hotter, and they’ll begin to sprout more quickly. Read more about how to properly store potatoes.

How to Use Potatoes Before They Sprout

The best way to avoid green or sprouted potatoes is to use them! Fortunately, these versatile, inexpensive, nutrient-packed taters can be used in dozens of delicious ways, from these hot honey butter smashed potatoes to this easy, creamy Instant Pot potato soup or a cheesy, show-stealing side dish of potatoes Romanoff. Still worried you won’t be able to make it through a bag of spuds in time? Don’t fret: Freeze your potatoes!