When do potatoes go bad? Is it bad when it’s soft and sprouting? Find out the signs of bad potatoes and tips on how to properly store potatoes.

Russet Potatoes

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Potatoes are a popular must-have in the household. You’ll never run out of things to try with potatoes, mashed, boiled, fried and baked, by themselves or as a part of a dish. Low calorie, high fiber and rich in vitamin B6, potatoes can even help against some cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Because of these awesome attributes, it’s normal to stock up on potatoes.

When do potatoes go bad? After about one to two weeks, potatoes would start sprouting or going soft. Like any other tuberous crop out there, when not stored properly and over time potatoes will go bad.

Here are tips on prolonging the shelf life of spuds, signs of potatoes going bad, and the effects of consuming bad potatoes.

The Signs of Bad Potatoes

Got some potatoes in the pantry and completely forgot about them? That really happens. You might be surprised to find your potatoes looking different. Are my potatoes bad now? What does a bad potato look like?

Wrinkly, Sagging and Mushy Potatoes

Potatoes age the same way human skin does. Over time it will start to wrinkle and sag. Though the wrinkling and sagging won’t affect the taste of your potato that much, it will be better to get rid of them before they also ruin other potatoes. As your potatoes age, they will also start to feel mushy. This is a clear indicator that your potatoes are not edible anymore.

Smelly Potatoes

Fresh potatoes have this distinct earthy smell. Some potatoes may look perfectly fine from the outside but are actually rotten inside, with a really bitter and moldy scent.

Green Spots

These spots develop before sprouts appear. Green spots can contain a mild toxin. This review explains that greening of the peel is associated with an increase on solanine. While you can easily remove small spots, it is best to discard potatoes with large green spots.

Moldy Potatoes

Mold can form on your potatoes if not stored right. Are moldy potatoes safe? It depends. If it just affected a small portion of your potato, you can always cut and throw that part out. If the mold has taken the majority of your potato then it’s better to get rid of that one already.

Potatoes Soft and Sprouting

Are soft potatoes safe to eat? It also depends. Your potato is still good if it’s not “too soft”: mushy to the touch, sagging and shrinking.

Are potatoes still good if they are sprouting? The answer is, yes as long as they are still fairly firm, just remove the eyes and sprouts. And always remember, never eat those discarded sprouts. Solanine content in potatoes is concentrated on these sprouts, making it unsafe for consumption.

sprouting potato

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What Happens If You Eat a Bad Potato?

Of course, we expect something bad to happen if we accidentally consume some bad potatoes. Can you get sick from old and bad potatoes? Yes. Bad potatoes can be poisonous.

The potato plant contains a neurotoxin called solanine. The spud is the root crop, the plant is toxic, meaning a sprouting potato– it’s turning into a plant!– can be dangerous. Solanine is concentrated mostly on the skin or sprouts of potatoes. This natural toxin in food plants acts as a natural pesticide.

Consuming bad potatoes can cause solanine poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, and difficulty in breathing. Other symptoms include diarrhea, shock, and hallucinations. An article from New York Times provides more information on potato plant poisoning.

How to Properly Store Potatoes

Here are some tips to keep your potatoes from going bad too quickly.

  1. Always remember, the fresher the potatoes the longer it will last. If you’re planning to store some potatoes at home then better pick the freshest out of the bunch. Get some tips here: How to Pick a Potato.
  2. Store them in a cool, dark and dry place in your pantry.
  3. Avoid exposure to sunlight. Solanine production accelerates when potatoes are exposed to sunlight, which makes them even more toxic over time.
  4. Store your potatoes in an open container that will allow the air to circulate well. Do not use plastic! Plastic won’t allow them to breathe and will shorten their shelf life. You can use a paper bag, mesh bag, cardboard box, or basket as a container.
  5. Keeping them in a refrigerator is not advisable. Although refrigerating your potatoes will give them a longer shelf life, the low temperature will cause the starch on the potatoes to turn into sugar. It gives your potatoes a sweet taste but also causes them to darken faster.
  6. Take note of the eyes. Yes, your potatoes can develop eyes. This might sound scary but it’s natural. Those eyes are actually little sprouts that potatoes develop even after harvesting. These eyes will develop into much bigger and longer sprouts over time. Get rid of those eyes before they can ruin your potatoes.
  7. Keep your potatoes away from onions. They both release gases that ripen the other one. The potato-onion storage combination is inviting disaster.
  8. Check on your potatoes regularly and remove those already in a bad state so it won’t ruin the good ones.

Properly stored potatoes can last for one to two weeks, refrigerated ones can last for three to four weeks while frozen potatoes can last up to 12 months.

When do potatoes go bad? Is it bad when it's soft and sprouting? Find out the signs of bad potatoes and tips on how to properly store potatoe

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About the Author

Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, an author and a sous vide fanatic who believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she's on a mission to help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.