Can You Eat Potato Leaves? (3 Key Things To Know)


If you have ever grown potatoes, you know the joys of cooking the tubers for a meal – but the leaves are another story. They look nice, but they are bitter, and there is something you should know about them…

So, can you eat potato leaves?  You should not eat potato leaves, which contain solanine (a toxin that makes you sick with nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, and more). Do not eat any part of a potato except the tuber – the leaves, vines, flowers, and fruit contain the toxin solanine (which acts as a defense against pests).

Of course, other plants in the Nightshade family (such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants) contain solanine in their leaves too. So, you should not eat the leaves of any plant in the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family.

In this article, we’ll talk about why you should not eat potato leaves and what else to look out for (hint: green potato tubers can cause the same problem!)

Let’s get started.

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes


A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.

Can You Eat Potato Leaves?

You should not eat potato leaves. Potato leaves are poisonous – they contain the toxin solanine, which is a glycoalkaloid that tastes bitter and causes numerous health problems.

potato plants
Potato leaves are poisonous, since they contain the toxic substance solanine.

Solanine can cause the following symptoms if ingested in small amounts:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Burning Throat
  • Nightmares
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Eczema
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Inflammation or Join Pain

Eating a moderate to large amount of solanine can kill you. So, do not eat potato leaves, and do not let your pets or livestock eat them either.

Solanine does serve potato plants by acting as a natural pest repellent.

Can You Eat Potato Skin?

You can eat potato skin, as long as you wash the potato properly before cooking and eating. The skin contains nutrients and will not harm you.

green potatoes
The skin of potato tubers may turn green if they are left out in the sun. In that case, they are likely poisonous (since they produce the toxin solanine when exposed to sunlight).
Image courtesy of user Rasbak at Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Groene_aardappels_%27Dor%C3%A9%27_(Solanum_tuberosum_%27Dor%C3%A9%27).jpg

The exception is if the skin has turned green. This often happens to potato tubers (skin and flesh) if the tuber left out in the open and exposed to sunlight.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, potatoes will not turn green at all in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, potatoes will turn green fastest at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

(You can learn more about why potatoes turn green here, along with how to prevent it).

When this occurs, the potato is producing chlorophyll to help it use the sunlight for energy. However, exposure to sunlight usually also encourages potato tubers to produce the toxin solanine.

That is, chlorophyll and solanine production often go together in potato tubers, but not always. Still, the safe bet is to avoid green tubers.

potatoes soil
Use hilling to keep potato tubers covered from sunlight while they grow. Put them away after harvest, and don’t leave them out in the sun.

So, keep your potatoes out of sunlight during growth and after harvest or storage to stop them from turning green. If the tubers turn green, then cut away the green parts, or dispose of them to avoid solanine poisoning.

According to Purdue University Extension, the highest concentration of solanine in a potato tuber occurs in the skin (or in sprouts and eyes). So, if you want to minimize risk, simply peel your potatoes before cooking to get rid of the skins, eyes, and any sprouts that have appeared.

(You can learn why potatoes sprout, along with how to avoid it, here).

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes


A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.

Can You Eat Potato Raw?

You can eat potato raw, but there are some things to know first.

Yukon Gold potatoes
You can eat potato raw, but there are some things to know and some risks to consider first.

For one thing, you should make sure that the skin and flesh is not green. Otherwise, the toxin solanine is likely present (you can tell by the bitter taste). Do not eat potatoes with green skin or flesh.

Also, keep in mind that there are some risks with eating raw potatoes (as there are with other raw and unprocessed foods):

  • Raw potatoes contain resistant starches – these are good for your gut bacteria, but your body cannot digest or absorb them. If you eat too much at once, you might be uncomfortable with distress (gas and bloating).
  • Raw potatoes contain antinutrients – some of these prevent your body from absorbing nutrients in other food you eat.
  • Raw potatoes may contain pathogens – any bacteria or viruses from the soil may survive in raw potatoes, whereas cooking them properly would reduce or eliminate the danger. Since potato tubers grow directly in the soil, there is more risk of contamination from the soil than with other plants.

Are Potato Vines Poisonous?

Potato vines are poisonous. They contain the toxin solanine, just like the leaves of a potato plant do.

potato plants in container
Potato vines are poisonous, just like the leaves, since both contain the toxin solanine.

So, avoid eating potato vines, and don’t let your pets get near them if they tend to eat things in the garden.

Also note that potato vines are poisonous to livestock as well as to humans. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, potato vines can poison cows, sheep, and pigs that eat them.

cows eating hay
Livestock (such as cows, sheep, and pigs) will get sick if they eat the leaves, vines, flowers, or fruit of potato plants.

Pigs are most sensitive, since they have a digestive system with one stomach.

To prevent this problem, make sure to fence off your potato plants from any livestock (or pets!) that could get into them.

Are Potato Flowers Poisonous?

Potato flowers are poisonous. They contain the toxin solanine, just like the leaves and vines of a potato plant do.

white potato flower
Potato flowers are beautiful to look at, but they are also poisonous, so don’t eat them.

So, don’t eat potato flowers, and don’t let your pets or livestock eat them either.

It is true that white or purple potato flowers have a nice appearance, but they should be used for decorative purposes only – never for eating!

Are Potato Seeds Poisonous?

Potato seeds (and the fruit that contains them) are extremely poisonous, since they contain a high concentration of the toxin solanine. The “round balls” on potato plants are fruit that appear from the flowers.

harvested potato fruit
Potato plants that have flowers may eventually produce fruit like the ones shown here. These “berries” contain lots of potato seeds, but the whole fruit is poisonous due to solanine.
Image courtesy of user: MidgleyDJ via: Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Potato_fruits.jpg

Potato plants often produce green fruit that grows above the ground (if flowers are pollinated). The fruit looks like small cherry tomatoes, but they feel much harder. So, teach kids the difference so they know not to eat potato fruit!

Each fruit contains many seeds. If you save these seeds, you will not get the same type of potato plant as the parent plant.

How Toxic Are Potato Berries?

Potato berries (fruit) are toxic enough that they can make you sick or kill you if you eat them. So, don’t risk it and avoid potato fruit.

potato fruit on vine
Potato berries are toxic enough to make you very sick if you eat them, so don’t take the chance.
Image courtesy of user: H. Zell via: Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solanum_tuberosum_004.JPG
The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes


A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.

Conclusion

Now you know that you should not eat potato leaves, vines, flowers, or fruit, due to the solanine content. You also know to avoid potato tubers with green skin or flesh, since they can also contain solanine.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you have sprouted potatoes, you might be able to eat them if you cut away the inedible parts. If not, you can always try planting them!

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Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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