Can you eat sprouted potatoes?

 While potatoes that have sprouted are not unfit for consumption, tubers that have turned green contain solanine and should be avoided. Explanations with Dr Pierre Francès, general practitioner in Banyuls-sur-Mer.

Are you hesitant to eat a potato that is lying at the bottom of your vegetable drawer just because it has sprouted? Do not panic ! Solanine poisoning, a toxin from the saponin family , is relatively rare given the frequent use in our diet of the famous tuber introduced in France by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier.

A 1979 article published by The United States National Library of Medicine reported 78 cases of poisoning in English schoolchildren who fell ill after eating potatoes for lunch. “  Seventeen boys had to be hospitalized ,” the article reads.  Gastrointestinal, circulatory, neurological, and dermatological findings as well as laboratory results were consistent with solanine poisoning.  »

Why can a potato be unfit for consumption?

Potatoes can become toxic and unfit for consumption when they have significantly greened after exposure to the sun and large quantities are eaten. In question ? Solanine, a toxin found in many vegetables.

What is solanine? Does this substance represent a danger?

Solanine – a natural substance present in many vegetables belonging to the nightshade family such as tomatoes or eggplants – can be toxic to humans when ingested in high doses .

“  Solanine is a glyco-alkaloid (GA), a substance with a protective effect against certain diseases caused by fungi or insects ,” confirms an article published in August 2013 in the Swiss Medical ReviewSolanine is present mainly in flowers, leaves, sprouts and skin, and to a lesser extent in the tuber. Certain genetic factors, but also storage conditions, exposure to light or even bruises produced during harvest, can significantly increase the solanine content. A marked bitterness , or even burning sensations, can then lead one to suspect the presence of a high level of glyco-alkaloid, a substance usually imperceptible to the taste buds.  »

What are the risks ?

Rest assured, the risks of dying from solanine poisoning by consuming potatoes that have turned green are extremely low.

Doses between 3 and 6 mg/kg body weight can be fatal. But, given the low concentration of this glyco-alkaloid agent in potatoes, you would have to eat several kilos of it in a single meal to die from it. Dr Pierre Francès, general practitioner

On the other hand, it is entirely possible to experience digestive discomfort from a dose of 1 mg/kg of body weight.

What are the symptoms of solanine poisoning?

Symptoms of solanine poisoning most often occur within seven to fourteen hours of ingestion and can include vomiting, headache, and diarrhea . “  Clinically, after ingestion, several manifestations are classically observed and result from the acetylcholinesterase inhibitory action of solanine ,” adds Dr Pierre Francès.  Oropharyngeal disorders may appear, intense sweating, nausea, vomiting , headache and diarrhea - secondary to the cytotoxic action of solanine on the cell membrane, modifying intestinal absorption - sometimes with fever, or even a malaise, loss of consciousness and respiratory distress. Hallucinations, agitation and lightheadedness can also complete the clinical picture.  »

What is the treatment for solanine poisoning?

The treatment of solanine poisoning is primarily symptomatic. “  We will prescribe antispasmodics , antiemetics against vomiting and analgesics to relieve any abdominal pain  ,” confirms Dr. Pierre Francès.

Are potato sprouts toxic? Can I eat potatoes that have sprouted?

It is entirely possible to eat potatoes that have sprouted.

  • As a precaution, remove the sprouts using a knife or peeler, then peel the tubers and remove the greenish parts if necessary.
  • Wash thoroughly and cook as usual.

Peeling the vegetables well eliminates all traces of solanine; cooking does not eliminate it, in general, since it only disappears at a temperature greater than or equal to 243°C. Dr Pierre Frances

Can we eat soft potatoes? Are they still edible?

Are your potatoes no longer fresh? No worries. Here too, the risks of poisoning are rare. “  Soft potatoes do not present a health risk ,” replies Dr. Pierre Francès.  On the other hand, the fact that they are soft indicates that their nutritional quality is impaired.  »

How to prevent potatoes from germinating too quickly? Where to store tubers?

To prevent your potatoes from germinating too quickly, it is recommended not to wash the potatoes – the soil that covers them allows them to be preserved for longer – and to store them in a dry place. sheltered from light: for example, in a canvas bag in a cellar or storeroom.

Tomatoes and eggplants: what are the risks of solanine poisoning?

Besides potatoes, solanine is also found in eggplants and tomatoes . “  Solanine disappears when the fruit or tuber reaches maturity ,” assure the gardeners of Pas à Pas, a place for sharing, experimentation and training in agroecology and permaculture in Hoeilaart, near Brussels.  Eating a green tomato is not going to cause serious problems. Symptoms only appear when a person eats too much.  » In short: you just need to be a little patient to enjoy the best that nature has to offer!