Green potatoes

It’s hard to know what’s an “old wives’ tale” and what’s really true. When I was pregnant, my husband’s grandmother warned me not to cover my belly with water in the tub, or the baby would “drown”. We tell our kids not to make horrible faces, or they might “freeze” like that. For years I brushed off a faintly remembered warning not to eat green-edged potato chips. I figured the chips were bad for me anyway, so what if there was some extra danger? It probably wasn’t even true……

I finally got around to checking on the whole green potato thing.

A green potato has a nerve toxin called solanine, part of the plant’s defense system. The leaves and stems are naturally very high in this poison and should never be eaten. (It is the same with tomato vines and leaves.) It develops on the spud when exposed to light, or extremes of heat or cold. If ingested in large enough amounts it is actually fatal. Smaller amounts cause vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and even paralysis. Actually, the green is chlorophyll, but it indicates the presence of solanine. That’s why just cutting off the green doesn’t mean you’ve removed all the toxin.

The good news is that you’ve got to eat about 4 pounds of green potatoes at a time to get enough of the chemical to do you any harm. It is best though to discard potatoes with green eyes, sprouts, or greenish skin, especially when they are to be eaten by children, whose size makes them more susceptible to the toxin. It is hard for me to throw anything away, especially since I know I’ve survived years of green chips, but I guess they’ll make good compost.

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