April 8, 2011
I recently noticed that a potato in my vegetable bowl was sprouting. Quite a lot, actually.
I’ve been told all my life that once a potato has sprouted, you can’t eat it anymore. But I was ready for dinner, and I don’t like throwing food away. I also found this increasingly suspect, the more I thought about it. So I did some research.
There are a couple of specific toxins that people worry about. The main one is solanine, which is also present in the deadly nightshade plant, to which the potato is related, and from which the potato family, Solanaceae, gets its name (other plants in this family include eggplants, tomatoes, petunias, and tobacco - nicotine is specific to Solanaceae, which means that eggplants contain nicotine as do tomatoes, though in very small amounts). The other toxin that people worry about is chaconine, which I haven’t been able to learn much more about.
It turns out that these toxins are largely concentrated in the sprouts themselves (as well as just beneath the skin), and don’t really diffuse through the potato or anything unsettling like that. So presumably if the sprouts and skin can simply be removed, as one might do anyway, the toxins should be gone as well.
So I tried it, and I am fine! Don’t throw away your sprouted potatoes!
In fact, maybe one day, just let a potato sprout all the way; apparently potato plants have quite beautiful flowers and interesting-looking (though poisonous) fruit.