Claim: Green potatoes are poisonous.
Origins: The potato, the ultimate comfort food in Western society, has a disturbing secret. This trustworthy old friend so often invited to our tables can, at times, slip us a little bit of poison.
The potato — or, rather, green versions of
A glycoalkaloid poison found in species of the nightshade, solanine is a nerve toxin produced in the
Solanine develops in potatoes when spuds are subjected to light or either very cold or warm temperatures. It interferes with the body's ability to use a particular chemical that facilitates the transmission of impulses between cells. Ingested in large enough amounts, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and even paralysis of the central nervous system.
However, unless you are deliberately seeking out green potatoes to eat, you are unlikely to ingest enough of the toxin to do harm. The potatoes we buy contain such a minute amount of the chemical that a healthy adult would have to eat about
Contemporary lore contains a well-traveled tale that expounds on a different danger a green potato might pose:
Barbara "have spud, will travel" Mikkelson
Last updated: 9 February 2015
Beatty, Denise. "Green Spots Indicate Potato Has Been Damaged." The Toronto Star. 19 November 1986 (p. E17). Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Baby Train. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. ISBN 0-393-31208-9 (p. 127). Kelly, Peter. "Stop on Green." The Boston Globe. 4 December 2005 (Magazine, p. 59). Kerrigan, Jack. "Alkaloid Turns Spud Green: Think What It Can Do to Us!" [Cleveland] Plain Dealer. 23 December 2000 (p. H9). Sass, Lorna. "Say Hello to the Simple Spudvegetarian View." The Oregonian. 13 March 1990 (Food Day; p. 8). The Big Book of Urban Legends. New York: Paradox Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56389-165-4 (p. 187).