Are those weird germs on your potatoes safe to eat?

If I counted the time I spent staring at potatoes, it would be hours. During that time, I could have started learning a new language, finally finished my stash of pandemic-bought needlepoint webs, properly trained for a marathon, maybe even running said marathon. But instead, I’m looking at potatoes of all colors and creeds – red potatoes, new potatoes, Yukon gold, baking potatoes, sweet potatoes (or are they yams? ) And the fat redhead. The problem is that some end up staring at me. What are those creepy little eyes growing chaotically on my potatoes? Should I cut them? Can we eat them safely?

When potatoes begin to sprout, they develop “eyes,” which tend to start as small reddish-white bumps and can quickly turn into growths several inches long. But can you really eat a sprouted potato? In short, yes, provided you cut the shoots. Use a paring knife to remove the entire sprout and the small part of the potato from which it grows. And no, it is not enough to remove the eyes with a vegetable peeler as I have done time and time again. While it’s probably not harmful if you eat a tiny bit of the germ (I certainly did and lived to tell the tale), the best practice is to remove as much of it as possible. Once the sprout is completely removed from the tater, it can be safely mashed, roasted or baked and eaten.

I can’t imagine you want to eat the large bulbous shoots, but if you’re thinking about it, don’t. The more germs on a potato, the less safe it becomes to eat.

So what makes potatoes sprout little sprouts anyway? According to The Irish Times, a publication I absolutely trust on all things potato, when the tubers are stored on your counter or in a pantry, they are tricked into thinking it’s spring. “People tend to have their homes at a temperature of around [68 degrees Fahrenheit]which is the ideal growing temperature for potatoes,” says Jenny McNally, an organic farmer based in Dublin. She explains that sprouting won’t change the flavor or structure of the potatoes, but they are unsightly and extreme sprouting can cause consumers to become Potatoes, They’re Like Us: Manifesting the Weather Regardless the time of year!