Can You Eat Green Potatoes?

Are green potatoes safe to eat? We dug into the science to find out.

It’s been a long week, and the one bright spot is that humble bag of potatoes in the pantry. Soon you’ll transform them into some truly delicious french fries at home. But what do you do when you pull out said bag of potatoes and find bright green spots on them? Are your french fry dreams over before they’ve even started? We’re breaking down why potatoes turn green and how to still enjoy your favorite potato recipes safely.

Why do potatoes turn green?

When potatoes are exposed to direct sunlight, they will naturally start to turn green. The green color comes from chlorophyll, a term you probably haven’t heard since middle school science class. Chlorophyll is a harmless compound that gives plants their green color.

Chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis, the process that plants use to feed themselves. Exposure to sunlight speeds up the production of chlorophyll in potatoes. This is why it’s important to store them in a dark area.

Are green potatoes safe to eat?

According to the National Capital Poison Center, green potatoes are not safe to eat. When chlorophyll increases in a potato, turning it green, it’s likely that the compound solanine has also increased. A higher level of solanine causes potatoes to taste bitter and can even lead to health problems.

When eaten in large quantities, this compound can lead to digestive issues like nausea and diarrhea, as well as headaches and neurological problems. It’s helpful to remember that you’d have to eat a serious amount of green potatoes to start to feel these effects. That being said, a good rule when it comes to potatoes is this: If it tastes bitter, don’t eat it.

How to Fix Green Potatoes

So does that mean that an entire bag of potatoes with green spots has to be trashed? Not exactly. If a small part of your potato has turned green, fear not. There is no need to toss the whole spud. Simple cut off the green part and use the rest of the potato safely. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it’s best to also remove the potato’s skin because more solanine can be found in the skin.

To prevent your potatoes from turning green too soon, always store them away from direct sunlight. A cool, dark place like the pantry or a cabinet are best. Basements make a great storage spot as well. This also prevents your potatoes from sprouting.

Need to use up some greening potatoes tonight? Whip up one of our quick potato recipes!

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Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.