The potato is such a universal food that it can be found in almost all cuisines. It is a part of daily staple in many regions. The westerners have a particular liking for the potato chips, known in various names like French fries, crisps etc. The vegetable is usually round and brown. However, very rarely, you may come across a green spud; either in those you brought from the market or in that packet of chips you bought for the midday snack. Some people don’t really mind but others immediately frown and subject it to intense scrutiny before deciding to eat it or throw it out. Many think that the greenish tint is poisonous, and there a fair bit of truth in it.
The greenish tint on the spud is actually chlorophyll, the pigment that gives green color to all the plants in the world. While chlorophyll itself is not harmful, it is the presence of a glycoalkoid named solanine that poses danger to us. Solanine is actually a nerve toxin produced in the greenish parts of the potato plant, including leaves and stem. A crystalline alkaloid, this poison is in fact a part of the plant’s defenses against insects and diseases. Solanine is developed when the potatoes are exposed to too much light or warm temperatures. When the potatoes start to produce chlorophyll, it also facilitates more synthesis of solanine. As you know, potatoes grow under the ground, shielded from the light. But occasionally, it might emerge above the soil and get exposed to the sunlight, thereby triggering the production of chlorophyll. The light need not be sunlight, meaning electric bulbs can also trigger production of the chemical. That is why we find some potatoes becoming green even at our homes.
Naturally, the substance is harmful to human body. It disrupts the transmission of impulses between our cells. If consumed in large amounts, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and even paralysis of the central nervous system. However, the poison doesn’t affect people unless they are eating a large amount of the spuds. A person weighing 200 pounds might have to eat at least twenty green potatoes to develop any sign of sickness. As for the chips, the chances of developing any significant sickness are very low since a packet will contain only one or two slices of green potato. Children, due to their small weight, are susceptible to solanine and should not be fed the spud if it has developed the green hue. But even a grown person should not eat the leaves and green sprouts of potato since they contain high levels of solanine.
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