Have you ever wondered why potatoes sprout? What are those small projections called, and is it safe to consume potatoes that have already sprouted? These questions often arise when we encounter our favorite source of starch in a sprouting state. Fortunately, understanding the science behind potato sprouting can help us make informed decisions about consumption and storage.
Can Potato Sprouts Kill You?
Potato sprouts, also known as eyes, do contain a small amount of poison. Consuming enough of these sprouts can be harmful, but the potatoes themselves are still edible if the sprouts are removed. As long as the potatoes are firm to touch and have not dried up or shrunk completely, they are suitable for cooking.
The small projections or buds are part of the potato’s natural growth process. Potatoes are underground stems swollen with moisture, and their ability to form buds makes propagation possible. However, not every part of the potato is edible, and those buds must be nipped for safe preparation.
When a potato exhibits buds, some parts may begin to soften due to the transformation of starch to sugar, facilitating bud growth. These soft spots can be removed along with the buds, leaving the rest of the potato safe for consumption.
Two problematic compounds, glycoalkaloids and solanine, begin to accumulate in maturing potatoes. If consumed in sufficient amounts, they may cause vomiting, migraines, or other digestive ailments. Therefore, it’s essential to avoid shriveled potatoes.
Correct Way to Store Potatoes
Knowing how to store potatoes is vital to reduce the chances of green, sprouting ones in your pantry. A cool and dark place is the potato’s best friend.
Avoid storing potatoes near onions, as onions emit compounds that hasten eye development. Commercially grown potatoes are often treated to delay bud growth, but if you purchase potatoes from a non-organic source, extra attention is required.
Inspect your potatoes when buying a new batch, separating any with pest-related damage, green spots, or buds. Store them in wooden boxes, cardboard boxes, paper bags, or mesh bags, avoiding plastic bags due to poor air circulation.
Keep your potatoes at 40˚-50˚ degrees Fahrenheit in unheated areas like the basement, garage, or yard shed. The refrigerator is not suitable, as the cold accelerates sugar formation, leading to quicker bud growth.
Regularly inspect your potatoes, separating those that have grown buds. Sprouted ones can still be used but will continue to increase buds. As long as the potatoes have not dried up, they are fit to be eaten.
Late-harvest potatoes, usually harvested in late fall, keep the longest. If you collect or procure them from an organic farmer’s market, they must be dried outside (cured) before long-term storage. Damaged ones should be separated and cooked first.
Conclusion: The Balance Between Health and Taste
Understanding why potatoes sprout and how to store them properly ensures that we can enjoy this versatile vegetable without compromising our health. By following the correct storage methods and being mindful of the state of the potatoes, we can continue to enjoy them in various delicious dishes.
For more insights into the nutritional comparison between potatoes and other staples, you may explore this article on Rice vs. Potatoes: Which One is Healthier?
By embracing the science behind potato sprouting and implementing proper storage techniques, we can enjoy the rich flavors and nutritional benefits of potatoes without any concerns.