Confronting photo sparks questions on safety of sprouted potatoes: 'So creepy'

There's a good reason to pass on the mashed potatoes if your root veg are growing sprouts.

It’s happened to us all before. You purchase a bag of potatoes, forget about them in the back of the cupboard, and search for them only to find them covered in white sprouts. However, one woman was left stunned recently at just how out of control her potato stash became after she discovered a crazy mini potato garden unknowingly growing at the back of her cupboard.

“I remember buying these sometime in December to make a dish for Christmas dinner, then not being able to find them, assuming they had been used and then buying more,” she wrote in a Facebook group.

“Not sure if I should plant them or toss them, but I never thought I’d find anything like this growing in my cupboards.”

Can you eat sprouted potatoes
The forgotten potatoes had sprouted into a plant, with many commenting that she should add to her garden. Photo: Facebook

The post received nearly 800 comments on her unsettling find, with some people even saying they were still ok to eat.


"OMG sprouted potatoes! I hate when they do that. It feels so creepy to touch accidentally," one person commented on the shared photo.

"Plant them, they deserve to live!" suggested another. Many suggested that the potatoes were clearly "searching for soil".

"This is nothing unusual. They are still ok for eating. You can also plant them if you want to," suggested a third.

Can you eat them?

So at what point do you skip the roast potatoes and throw them away? For those of us whose spuds have sprouted ever so slightly, there’s still the temptation of not letting them go to waste.

But should you eat them? The short answer is, it all depends.

Food scientist from Food Safety Plus, Alexandra Reagan warns that potatoes that have begun to sprout can potentially be toxic to humans because they become filled with Glycoalkaloids - a chemical compound.

“Glycoalkaloids are primarily concentrated in the leaves, stems, and sprouts, with the most common glycoalkaloids found in potatoes being solanine and chaconine,” she explained to Yahoo Lifestyle.

“While these compounds serve as a natural defence mechanism for the plants against parasites and diseases, they can be toxic to humans when consumed in large amounts.”

Can you eat sprouted potatoes
Cutting off the sprouts won't guarantee that the toxins have been removed. Photo: Getty

Err on the side of caution

We know what you’re thinking there. Why can’t you just cut off the sprouts? Well in most cases you can - but Reagan said there are some important factors to consider.

“Cutting off the sprouts of a sprouted potato can help reduce the amount of toxins present, but may not eliminate all of the toxin, especially if the potato has turned green,” she says.

“If the potato appears healthy, and the majority of it is firm and free from green parts and sprouts, it may be safe to consume in moderation. However, if a consumer is unsure, it's best to err on the side of caution and discard it.”


What can happen if you do eat them?

The amount of toxins within a sprouted potato depends on how they have been managed post-harvest including the exposure to sunlight, storage temperature and how they’ve been physically handled.

Can you eat sprouted potatoes
While we should think twice before consuming sprouted potatoes, Ms Reagan says you can safely plant them in your garden. Photo: Getty

Consuming the sprouted potatoes can result in “gastrointestinal disturbances” which can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, neurological issues.

“The exact amount of green or sprouted potatoes needed to cause illness will vary depending on factors such as individual sensitivity, the amount of toxins present, and the person's overall health,” Reagan said.

“As a general guideline, consuming a single green or sprouted potato is unlikely to cause severe symptoms."

How to correctly store potatoes

How you store potatoes has everything to do with how quickly they sprout and their shelf life. Storing potatoes in a cool, dark place slows the growth of the sprouts, meaning they’ll last much longer.

They should be stored in a cardboard box which will give them good ventilation and allow moisture released from the potatoes the opportunity to evaporate instead of trapping it and ruining the potatoes.

The back of a cupboard in the pantry is the perfect place to store them - but just don’t forget about them!

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