If you've ever gone to cook dinner and realized that the potatoes on your menu look more like your high school science fair project, you've had to deal with sprouted potatoes. Of course, you hate to throw out food, but can you eat sprouted potatoes? Here's everything you need to know to buy and store potatoes, including an answer on whether or not your can eat spuds with eyes.
You may have noticed that when you bring a bag of potatoes home, you occasionally get a sprouted potato or a green potato, meaning there's a layer of green skin under the brown exterior of the potato. That bit of green can definitely be a problem. All potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, which are natural toxins. Specifically, potatoes contain solanine and chaconine; if you consume too many of these two toxins, it can cause abdominal pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, headache, and fever.
To be clear, we're not talking about the kind of food safety issue that causes grocery store recalls. You can't cook these toxins out of potatoes, but generally, it's not an issue. You usually have to eat a fair amount of these toxins for them to cause problems. The green skin is a sign that the potato has a higher concentration; it's also where most of the toxins are concentrated. In other words, avoid the green skin and you'll most likely avoid the problem.
Sprouted potatoes are a sign that your spud is coming to the end of its shelf life; if you peel it, you're going to find that layer of green skin under the peel. You don't want to eat the potato sprouts (commonly called eyes), and you definitely don't want to eat a wrinkly or soft potato. Those are signs that the potato has gone bad.
If the sprouted potato is still firm and there are just a couple of tiny sprouts, you can cut away those areas with your peeler and use the rest of the potato. If your potato is past all hope, toss it (or if you've got a garden, try planting it).
Because some potato recipes call for not peeling the potato (like a baked potato), if there's any question, use your peeler to scrape away a bit of the exterior so you can see if there's any green skin. If you see green skin, maybe switch to french fries or mashed potatoes instead, where you can cut away the bad bits.
To make your bag of potatoes last, store them in a dry place. A dark place helps as well, since light triggers the production of chlorophyll, which in turn triggers the growth of potato plants. Because potato plants grow from the tubers themselves, you don't want to trigger more chlorophyll unless you're sprouting potatoes for a garden.
The bottom line is that you can eat sprouted potatoes, but only if you peel them and cut off the sprouted or green bits.