What To Do When A Potato Grows 'Eyes'

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey
Credit: Shutterstock / Valeri Pavljuk

Potatoes never truly stop growing until they are cooked. Nearly everyone has had an experience where they had forgotten about a sack of potatoes, only to find a few weeks later that these root vegetables had grown 'eyes' or buds all over their exterior. If you are caught in a jam and desperately need to use one of these sprouting potatoes, you might wonder if it is still safe to eat.

It is usually safe to eat a potato that has sprouted eyes or buds, but you should make sure you completely remove them before cooking the potato. You can also plant them in your garden. Sprouts growing on potatoes occur when a potato is growing older, and a sign that they are becoming toxic. Soft, wrinkled, or discolored potatoes with spuds should be thrown away.

If you recently found potatoes in your pantry or refrigerator that are growing eyes, you might wonder what you can do with them. The good news is that sometimes you can safely eat these potatoes. There are some instances when these sprouting spuds should be thrown away due to toxicity. Or you can use them in other ways than you had initially intended. Keep reading to learn when it is safe to eat potatoes that are sprouting, and how you can prevent your potatoes from sprouting in the first place.

Is It Safe To Eat A Potato That Is Growing buds or “Eyes”?

If you have a recipe that calls for potatoes, and the only potatoes you have are growing buds, these will probably be safe to use. In most cases, it is safe to eat potatoes that are growing new roots on their exterior, but there are steps you need to take to ensure eating them is safe and delicious.

First, you need to remove the eyes. These can contain levels of solanine and chaconine, which are natural toxins in these sprouted potatoes. Next, you need to take a closer look at the potato. Sprouts alone don’t mean a potato has gone bad, but it is a sign that the potato has passed its prime. Squeeze and examine the exterior of the potato. If it is shriveled up or very soft, then it has gone bad and should not be cooked. It is also wise to cut the potato in quarters to ensure the potato has not begun to rot from the inside.

Can I Eat The Sprouts On The Potato?

If you are in a rush, you might wonder if you can throw caution to the wind and cook the potatoes with the buds. The answer is no, you can not eat these sprouts. Not only are these eyes unsightly from a culinary point of view, but they are also high in toxins. Eating these sprouted eyes is a good way to get sick, so make sure you remove them completely.

Three Ways You Can Use Potatoes That Have Grown Eyes

1. Use A Paring Knife To Remove Buds

Paring knives are great for peeling potatoes. They are also great at removing the pesky eyes that pop up when a potato has been neglected for too long. The short blade and sharp point are great at making precise cuts. Pairing knives are, however, notoriously dangerous to work with, so be very careful not to cut yourself in the process.

The key is to cut into the potato and remove not just the top portion of the sprout that sticks out, but also any root. A good rule is that you should cut as deep into the potato as the eye is sticking out. Also, look out for soft or dark spots, so you can cut them out as well.

2. Use The Tip Of Your Vegetable Peeler

As long as there have been potatoes, there have been sprouts growing out of them. So it should come as no surprise that the inventors of modern vegetable peelers had this in mind when they designed them with a pointed tip. If you take a closer look at your vegetable peeler (most of them anyway), you will see it has a grooved point on the end that is specifically designed to remove sprouts on potatoes and soft spots on other vegetables.

This is the perfect method to use if you are also peeling your potatoes. It helps to remove the eyes before peeling the potatoes. This not only makes peeling easier, but it makes it easier to find the spots you need to dig into.

3. Plant The Potato And Grow More

If your potato has started to sprout, it might not be a great idea to eat it, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. If you have a green thumb or are planning on a vegetable garden in the coming months, you’ll be happy to know you can turn these old potatoes into new ones.

You can cut the potato into quarters and then plant them directly into soil, or use toothpicks first to grow them in water while you wait to transplant them. You simply place the potato with the cut surface facing down (the sprouts facing up towards the sun). Then you cover these root vegetables in three to four inches of soil in your garden and wait. This is a great and free way to add hearty potatoes to your vegetable garden.

Ways To Prevent Your Potatoes From Growing Eyes

1. Make Sure You Eat Oldest Potatoes First

Just like with all the produce you buy in bulk, you must circulate them by using the oldest items first. If you buy a new sack of potatoes, make sure you place the old ones on top, or in plain sight so you use them up quickly. Sprouted potatoes are often a result of a few stragglers from an old bag of potatoes that were forgotten.

2. Keep Potatoes In A Cold Dark Location

You also should keep your potatoes in ideal conditions. This means keeping them in a cold and dark place. Potatoes might take up valuable real estate in your refrigerator, but that is where they belong if your house is warm. The ideal conditions for potatoes are between 45 and 50 degrees and in the dark.

3. Don’t Buy More Potatoes Than You Need

Buying in bulk can save you money, but that’s only if you use everything you buy. If you have had to throw away sprouted, soft, or fully rotten potatoes more than once, then moving forward, you should buy smaller bags.

4. Keep Them Separated From Other Vegetables

If you keep your potatoes in a pantry, make sure they have a specific spot. If you keep potatoes with other produce like onions or garlic, then they can sprout or rot much faster. Keeping potatoes in their separate bin away from other living foods is the best way to keep them fresher longer. This also helps keep your pantry organized.

5. Store Potatoes Somewhere With Good Airflow

Another tip for preventing your potatoes from sprouting prematurely is to store them somewhere with good airflow. This might be easier said than done, since most people store potatoes in a kitchen cabinet or pantry with doors. Still, there are some measures you can take to increase airflow. Take the potatoes out of their bag, especially if it is a plastic bag. You can also look into using a storage bin with lots of holes to help increase ventilation.

Summing Up What To Do When Potatoes Grow Eyes

If you have potatoes in your home that have started to sprout, you might wonder if you need to toss them, or if you can somehow salvage them. In many cases, you can safely remove the eyes that have sprouted from your potatos and still safely cook and consume them. Keep in mind that once a potato starts sprouting, it begins to form natural toxins that can make humans sick. Therefore, if your potato also looks discolored, shriveled, or soft, it is best to throw it away or try planting it in your garden.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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