Why Do Potatoes Sprout?

by iupilon

What are the sprouts on potatoes called? Is it safe to eat potatoes that have already sprouted, and have soft spots? These are just some of the questions that people have in their minds when they see their potatoes sprouting. Fortunately, it’s not the end of the world for your potatoes, but you do have to know what is happening precisely to our favorite source of starch.

Can Potato Sprouts Kill You?

Are potato sprouts poisonous? Yes, they do contain a small amount of poison, and if you eat enough of those potato sprouts, they can kill you. Potatoes that have sprouts are still edible, but the sprouts or eyes have to be removed as they aren’t. As long as the potatoes are still in good shape and have not dried up or shrunk completely, they’re still good enough for cooking.

The easiest way to check sprouted potatoes for viability is by giving them a good pinch. If the potatoes are firm to touch, they are 100% suitable for cooking. However, if your potatoes have already shrunk considerably and the skin is showing a lot of drying and wrinkling, dispose of the potatoes and just buy new ones.

What are these sprouts or eyes, anyway? The small projections that you see are the buds of the potatoes that are attempting to ready themselves to grow.

Potatoes are underground stems that are swollen with moisture. The capacity of these stems to form buds is what makes potato propagation possible in the first place. However, you need to know that not every part of the potato is edible or good to eat. Those buds need to be nipped if you want to prepare the potatoes safely.

When a potato is exhibiting buds, some parts of the potato will begin to soften. This is due to the transformation of starch to sugar, which facilitates the growth of the buds. These soft spots across the potato can be removed along with the buds, just to make sure. Otherwise, the whole of the potato is safe for consumption. There is no need to change your dinner plans as the potatoes you have at home are going to taste the same, anyway.

The firmness and visual tests are essential for determining the level of the edibility of potatoes.

The reason for this is plant biochemistry: as the growth of buds accelerates, more plant starch is converted to sugar to facilitate the growth of the shoots. The process that allows potatoes to mature shrivels potatoes phase by phase and their flavor will be affected dramatically as time passes.

Two problematic compounds begin to accumulate in maturing potatoes during this time: glycoalkaloids and solanine. These two compounds are responsible for a plethora of symptoms when accidentally consumed. If you get a sufficient amount of these compounds in your system, you may experience vomiting, migraines or headaches, and other digestive ailments. These ailments are enough to send anyone to the hospital, so it’s not a good idea to risk it with shriveled potatoes.

Correct Way to Store Potatoes

Knowing how to store potatoes is essential if you want to reduce the chances of green, sprouting ones in your pantry. A cool and dark place is the potato’s best friend.

It is not ideal for placing or storing potatoes near onions, as onions emit compounds that hasten the development of eyes on potatoes. Commercially grown potatoes are often treated to delay the growth of buds. Still, if you are purchasing potatoes from an organic farmer, you have to be extra attentive, so your potatoes stay viable longer.

Firstly, you need to inspect all your potatoes whenever you buy a new batch. Any potatoes that have pest-related damage, green spots, and buds need to be separated from the perfect ones.

The perfect potatoes should be separated for long-term storage. Ideal containers for potatoes include wooden boxes, cardboard boxes, paper bags, mesh bags, and the like. Plastic bags are not suitable because of poor air circulation. Potatoes that have poor access to oxygen will not last very long. Remove newly purchased potatoes from their plastic bags as soon as you get home.

Keep your potatoes in a storage space that is consistently 40˚-50˚ degrees Fahrenheit. Unheated areas in your house like the basement are the perfect places for storing potatoes for the long term. You can also put your potatoes in the garage or a yard shed if you have any spare space in these areas.

Is the refrigerator an excellent place to store potatoes? No, because the temperature here is too cold, and the cold accelerates the formation of sugar in the potatoes. You will notice that potatoes that are just thrown into the refrigerator will grow buds quicker than those that are only stored in a cool space without light.

Inspect your potatoes regularly and make sure that you separate the ones that have grown buds despite your efforts. Put the sprouted ones in another storage container – these can still be used, but they are going to continue increasing buds as time progresses. Remember – as long as the potatoes have not dried up, and they are fit to be eaten.

The best practice is to purchase in bulk late-harvest potatoes.

These are usually harvested in late fall as well. Late-harvest potatoes keep the longest in our experience. If you collect your potatoes or procure them from an organic farmer’s market, the potatoes have to be dried outside (this is called curing) before you can store them inside for the long term. And while we’d like to conserve our food, the damaged ones are not likely to keep well, so these should be separated and cooked first.

The perfect ones can be cooked later. And if you want to avoid having sprouted potatoes at home, don’t buy too many potatoes as keeping any vegetables for too long is going to be a problem.

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