Is there any food more versatile or more delicious than a potato? The ways to enjoy these humble root vegetables are limited solely by your imagination. No matter your mood or craving there’s going to be a potato dish to suit your needs.
Add their versatility to their ability to be stored for months (under the right conditions) and you have the recipe for a perfect kitchen staple. But are potatoes always good for you?
I think we’ve all opened up a bag of potatoes at one point or another, seen some soft, wrinkled little spuds covered in eyes and wondered “Are these safe to eat?”
So, can you eat soft potatoes? Yes, you can. If they aren’t overly soft and shriveled, don’t have too much green coloring, and aren’t moldy then soft potatoes are safe to eat. If eyes or any small impurities start to show, they can easily be removed with a small paring knife or peeler for safe cooking.
Today we’re going to take a look at whether or not it’s safe to eat those soft potatoes and when we should err on the side of caution and throw them away.
Can You Eat Potatoes When They’re Soft?
The short answer to this question is, yes, depending on how soft they are. If you’ve opened up your bag of potatoes and found some that are starting to get soft, it’s best to take them out and do a deeper investigation.
If your potato is slightly soft to the touch but doesn’t have any mold spots or an off-putting smell, then it is safe to eat.
You may want to cut away or peel off the softest spots, but you won’t get sick from enjoying your spuds a little on the softer side.
It’s important to note that they won’t be at their best quality once they get to this point.
Since their flavor may not be optimal, I suggest flavoring them with some butter, salt, and a few fresh or dried herbs such as basil, sage, or chives.
What About REALLY Soft Potatoes?
If your potato has gone really soft and started to shrivel and shrink then the University of Illinois Extension recommends that you toss it away.
At this point, the potato has started to lose a lot of water and, while not dangerous, won’t cook well and may have an unpleasant taste.
While you should feel safe eating your slightly soft potatoes, I’m sure you have other questions about when potatoes are safe to eat and how best to store them to preserve their best quality.
Read on below for a few more of my potato-loving tips.
Can You Eat Potatoes That Are Green?
When your potatoes start to turn green that is a sign that they have been exposed to light. When plants, such as potatoes, get sun or light exposure they start to produce something called chlorophyll which is green in color.
Now, the chlorophyll itself isn’t bad for you, but along with the development of chlorophyll there is often another compound called solanine.
While there isn’t a huge amount in potatoes, solanine is a potentially toxic alkaloid that can cause digestive trouble and inflammation in large quantities.
If you eat a lot of potatoes that have too much solanine you may experience headaches, nausea, digestive disturbances, flushing, and abdominal pain.
The amount of solanine in a potato increases depending on how long it has been exposed to light and how intense that light is. If it has a bitter taste, this could be a signal to our taste buds that it isn’t a food we should be eating.
Once again, Illinois Extension recommends tossing potatoes that are green. However, if you find that your spud only has a couple of small green spots, you can peel it and cut out those little bits of green.
Most of the solanine is located directly under the potato skin, which means it is mostly removed once peeled.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks also states that steaming or cooking your potatoes in water is a great way to remove about 30 to 40 percent of the solanine present.
If you really don’t want to waste your green potato, this cooking method is your best bet.
The takeaway here is you want to peel your potatoes and remove any green bits before eating. And if your potato is more green than white or yellow then it’s best to throw it away.
If One Potato In the Bag Is Rotten, Should I Throw Away The Rest?
Sometimes you’re going to open your bag of potatoes and realize that some of them definitely look like they’ve gone bad.
In this case what you’re looking for is an unpleasant, somewhat fishy smell or visible signs of black, green, or blue mold.
If only one or two of the potatoes in the bag are rotten then you can throw away those ones and move the rest of them to a clean paper bag or box.
But if you open the bag and there are spots of mold or liquid throughout the entire package then you will want to throw them all away.
Can You Eat Potatoes That Have Sprouted Eyes?
Potatoes don’t have eyes to take in the world around them. What they do have are little growths that are actually stems from which new potato plants can grow. Pretty cool, huh?
Can you eat potatoes that have eyes? Yes, you can. Potatoes tend to sprout their eyes when they are stored in a warm, dark environment like how they would be planted in the ground.
Once the eyes sprout, you can use a peeler to remove them and then a small paring knife to cut the root out of the potato flesh. Once they are removed your potatoes are fine to enjoy!
A quick note: If the eyes of your potatoes grow longer than a few inches then it might be best to toss them away. Or you could get creative and plant some in your garden, a planter box, or a container on your patio!
Should I Refrigerate My Potatoes?
Many veggies that we enjoy every day stay fresher for longer when we keep them in the fridge, so it makes sense that you would be curious whether you should put your potatoes in there as well.
The answer to if you should keep potatoes in the fridge is a definite no. Refrigerating potatoes causes the starches to convert to sugar, which can make your potatoes sweeter.
While this may sound like a positive, it actually ruins the flavor and can cause the potato to turn brown once cooked.
A few other vegetables and fruits that shouldn’t be kept in the fridge include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Tomatoes- refrigerating whole, ripe tomatoes can impact their flavor and texture, turning them mushy.
- Winter Squashes
- Bananas- refrigeration can turn their peel brown prematurely and impact their texture.
How Should I Store My Potatoes?
The best way to store potatoes is in a cool, dry place. Heat and moisture can cause them to sprout, producing those eyes. It also increases spoilage.
The best place to store potatoes is in a cool cellar if possible, but since most of us no longer live on farmsteads, we have to find a suitable place at home.
I like to keep my potatoes in a dark drawer away from my stove where they still get some air circulation.
If your potatoes came in a plastic bag, you will want to transfer them to an unsealed paper bag or box, allowing airflow to get into the bag to prevent spoiling.
If you have an insulated garage or shed, that might be a great place to store your potatoes over winter as they like a temperature of around 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal preservation.
Do not wash the dirt off your potatoes until just before you are ready to use them because this dirt can also help extend their shelf life.
If you want to get creative you can store your potatoes with an apple. According to StopFoodWaste.org, the ethylene gas given off by the apple can help prevent premature sprouting and extend the life of your spud.
On the other side of the coin, you want to make sure you don’t keep your potatoes in the same place as you keep your onions.
Onions emit a gas that can cause potatoes to ripen and spoil, so find a separate spot for these veggies in your pantry.
Now that you know the best ways to store your potatoes for a longer shelf life and that soft potatoes are safe to eat, it’s time to get into the kitchen.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your spuds. There are so many recipes out there to just waiting for you to enjoy them!
Up Next: Can You Freeze Whole Potatoes?