About Green Potatoes

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Seeing green on your potatoes? Those areas contain a harmful toxin. Cut out those spots and throw them away.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Green = vegetables = good, right?

Not when it comes to potatoes.

Here’s an important piece of information that my mother taught me years ago, but fewer and fewer people these days seem to know about. Green in potatoes indicates the presence of a rather harmful toxin. When you see patches of green in your potatoes as you peel them, cut out the green parts entirely and discard them.

What is the green? Actually it’s chlorophyll. Not bad for you at all. But the chlorophyll indicates that the potato has been exposed to sunlight. And where the potato has been exposed to light is where a natural toxin in the potato (solanine) becomes concentrated at harmful levels. So, never store your potatoes on the counter. Always keep them in a cool, completely dark place.

Solanine is a natural defense mechanism of the potato to ward off fungus and pests. It will also be triggered when a potato is bruised, so if your potato is at all damaged or bruised, discard it.

According to the Wikipedia, deep-frying potatoes at a high temperature (306°F) effectively lowers the level of toxins. But boiling them (212°F) has no effect. Best to stay on the safe side and just cut away the green parts. The NIH website mentions that the potato sprouts can also have concentrated solanine, so those too should never be eaten.


One of the things we’ve been noticing recently is that more often than not the bag of potatoes we buy from our local grocer contains several potatoes with green splotches. Once in a while is one thing, but every time? We’ve complained to our store’s manager and if you are finding green in the potatoes from your produce supplier, we urge you to do the same.

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Potato Poisoning - Green Tubers and Sprouts - Medline Plus, of the National Institute of Health
About solanine - Wikipedia reference
Green Potatoes are Poisonous: True - Snopes Urban Legend Reference Pages
Harold McGee on green potatoes

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise


No ImageAbout Green Potatoes

  1. Rod cupp

    Would to much water turn potato green?i planted mine and hilled when plant was six inches high. We had a lot of rain. Garden flooded. After drying out we dug a hill. Two of the eight had green on sides. These spuds were approximately eight inches deep,no chance of sunshine getting on them. Could being in wet conditions cause green and is it toxic

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  2. taz

    thank you for the info.. been having stomach problems after eating some very lightly green-tinged potatoes (which i didn’t peel, cos it’s all scrubbed and clean) which tasted a bit bitter. now i know what’s the cause!

  3. A Tenter

    Thank you for your very important and informative website on the danger of eating green potatoes..publishers should include a food safety page including this type of information…
    I first learned of this danger as I was gleaning interesting information from 92 Civil War letters of my great great Grandfather. He writes in many of his letters of the severe illness that eating very green potatoes caused, including hospitalization and extreme weakness; Recovery was slow..No doubt the storage conditions were filthy in their encampments..Things are much better now; but I see some pretty green potatoes in the bags and I just purchased a large bag of Montana potatoes from the farm; the potatoes in the center of the bag were realy green!
    Again, thank you for information that should be up front for all to see.. Encluding info on the dangers of raw red kidney beans. Keep up the good work. ATV

  4. Reba Cox

    I grew some potatoes and they were not green when i dug them up. I stored them in a completely dark place and they still turned green? Do you know why?

    No idea. The green comes from chlorophyl, which only turns green when in sunlight. The potatoes can get bruised, even if stored in the dark, in which case the color will be more black-ish. ~Elise

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  5. megan

    Thanks, I always knew not to eat green potatoes, but I never knew why. The wisdom passed down from mother to child, just not why it was wise. I’ll be sure to let my children know. :)

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About Green Potatoes