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Potatoes gone green: Why it happens and when you should avoid them


SheKnows Editorial

We’ve all heard the rumor: Those green-hued potato chips that find their way into the bag are poisonous.

But are they really? And if so, how dangerous is it to eat them? We decided to get to the bottom of the green potato myth once and for all so we can snack in peace.

1. What turns potatoes green?

When potatoes are exposed to light, chlorophyll is produced. The green pigment you see is merely a sign that the potato was either grown too close to the surface of the soil or stored in an area that was too bright.

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2. But are green potatoes safe to eat?

“Green potatoes have an alkaloid (solanine) designed to protect the potato from insects,” Margaret Donohue, Ph.D., a medical psychologist who also grows potatoes, told SheKnows.

When potatoes are exposed to light, the levels of solanine rise. It’s this alkaloid, not the color itself, that can make green potatoes dangerous. However, since that green color coincides with elevated levels of solanine, it does serve as a handy warning to us. Convenient, right?

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In small doses, green potatoes (or that one green chip in the bag) are safe to eat. “You’d need to eat pounds of green potatoes to get sick,” Donohue said. Still, “it’s not a good idea” to eat them on a regular basis, she advised.

Solanine is concentrated in the potato skin and potato eyes. If you peel and remove the green parts of the skin and potato, you’ll remove most of the solanine, and the potato will be safe to eat.

3. How can you prevent green potatoes?

It’s pretty easy: Store your potatoes in a cool, dark place (but not the refrigerator, or their starches will convert to sugar, and they’ll taste oddly sweet). Voilà! As long as your potatoes aren’t exposed to light, they won’t turn green. On the off chance that you store your potatoes out in the open, just make sure that you eat them within a few days of purchase — or before they start to turn green.

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