When Potatoes are Unsafe to Eat

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates and are a part of a healthy diet. When prepared healthily, potatoes are a great source of complex carbohydrates that energize the body. However, when potatoes go bad, they become unsafe to eat. Potatoes contain a type of neurotoxin called solanine that in large amounts cause a wide range of discomforts and symptoms.

What is Solanine?

Solanine is a toxic chemical that is poisonous to human beings. Consuming bad potatoes can cause solanine poisoning. An indication of high solanine content in potatoes is a greenish tint on the peeled flesh. The solanine in potatoes is concentrated on the roots. The toxin increases in potency once the potato is exposed to light.

Symptoms of solanine poisoning include headaches, vomiting, stomach cramps, and difficulty in breathing. Other symptoms include diarrhea, shock, and hallucinations. While most children and adults can tolerate small amounts solanine from fresh potatoes, some people are very sensitive to this compound.

Studies show that consuming between 30 to 50 mg of solanine per 100 grams of potato may cause solanine poisoning. Sometimes, solanine poisoning can cause death.

When are Potatoes Unsafe to Eat?

When Potatoes are Shrunken

When it comes to eating potatoes, you want these tubers to be as fresh as possible. Leaving potatoes too long could cause them to go bad. The skin of a potato ages the same way as human skin does. When left for too long, the potato skin will start to sag, develop spots and wrinkles. Old potatoes will start taking on a mushy texture when touched. All these are warning signs that potatoes are no longer safe to eat.

When potatoes are starting to shrink, dry up and develop softer texture, throw them away instead of eating them. This goes especially if the potatoes were exposed to sunlight for far too long. Again, exposing potatoes to sunlight accelerates solanine production, which makes potatoes even more toxic as time goes by.

When Sprouts Shoots Up

Unlike other vegetables, potatoes do not become completely inert once they are harvested. Potatoes will develop sprouts called eyes. This goes especially for organic or farm stand tomatoes. Unlike potatoes from the local supermarket, organic or farm stand tomatoes are not treated with chemicals that reduce sprouting.

Developing sprouts do not make potatoes unfit for consumption because you can always cut the sprouts during preparation. However, do not eat the discarded sprouts or roots of the potatoes because this is where the solanine content of the root crop is concentrated.

Greenish Tint

Ever peeled a potato and instead of white flesh, you see a greenish tint? That’s a clear sign of high solanine content. The green tint you see is actually chlorophyll. This compound is not toxic but it does promote solanine production.

Potatoes produce solanine to keep pests and predators away. This chemical is a part of the tuber’s natural defense system. You don’t have to throw away the potatoes even if you are seeing a greenish tint on the flesh.  Simply peel all the green stuff away before cooking.

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