We’ve all seen potatoes that have some skin with a greenish color. Usually this occurs when a potatoe has been exposed to light or stored for too long. The skin forms chlorophyll as it prepares to sprout shoots, forming the green color. The chlorophyll is not dangerous but this process in potatoes triggers a self-defense mechanism that produces bitter, toxic substances to ward off pests and fungus, call solanine and chaconine. Some symptoms after consuming green potatoes with elevated levels of solanine and chaconine are vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, stomach cramps and dizzyness. Symptoms usually occur 30 minutes to 10 hours after consumption. Consuming large amounts can lead to more serious conditions such as paralysis and even death.
I found some green potatoes chips in a bag of Cape Cod chips. I have always assumed they were safe and ate them. I only recently found out about the dangers of green potatoes. After further research, apparently older generations know all about the dangers of green potatoes. Most people that I have asked recently didn’t know anything about green potatoes containing toxins.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you find a potatoe that is mostly the normal pale, beige color with only a small isolated green spot, it is safe to just cut out and discard any green skin and flesh and use the rest. If the potatoe is more than 1/4 covered in green and with sprouts (a clear sign that solanine and chaconine are present) do not use it, just throw it out. Any bitter tasting potatoes are also a sign of increased levels of these toxins. Frying potatoes is partially effective at removing the toxins, but boiling has almost no effect as the temperature is not high enough to remove the toxins. Check your potatoes before you buy and eat them for any green. After you buy some fresh potatoes, keep them away from any light source and allow for some air circulation.
As Americans, we love potatoes. That bad feeling you get sometmes after eating a large portion of hot and crispy fries may have less to do with all the oil and carbs you just ate and more to do with the toxins you may have ate. Green potatoes toxic, who knew? Not me at least.