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Did You Know: Can potatoes poison you?

Updated: May 20, 2022

I learned something about potatoes today and I want to share it with you.

Quite recently, we bought beautiful purple potatoes from our local farmer's market.

I would have taken a picture of these beauties and posted it here but sadly, all of those perfect looking potatoes are now in the trash. Here's why.

A few days ago, I made a big breakfast - croissants, eggs, pancakes and roasted rosemary potatoes. I was most excited about the potatoes - I washed them nicely, chose not to take the skin out and roasted them in my air fryer. They smelled great, they tasted great. Everyone had everything. It truly was a great breakfast.

Fifteen minutes after breakfast, my husband threw up. Not just once, he threw up several times that day - he was dizzy, and weak and spent the entire day in bed. We could not isolate what caused the issue. We thought it was acidity because he had two cups of coffee in the morning without eating. The last thing he had after breakfast was carrot juice and perhaps there was something wrong with that. Anyway, after a whole day in bed, he was perfectly fine after 24 hours. All the suffering was forgotten.

A day later, I pulled out the leftover roasted potatoes from the fridge. They looked so good and each of us took a piece. In five minutes, my husband started to feel sick again. We could now isolate the issue - it was the potatoes.

This is when I started to read up on potatoes - Wow, there is such a thing as potato poisoning. I now know that there is a chemical called Solanine (glycoalkaloid) which is found in potatoes. This is a naturally occurring chemical that protects the plant from insects. You can also find it in berries, peppers, eggplants and tomatoes - all of these are part of the nightshade family of plants.

Solanine is toxic. For most people, symptoms appear at doses of 2-5 mg/kg body weight. Sometimes, your body reacts immediately and sometimes it reacts in 10-15 hours. High doses can be lethal. Each individual reacts to solanine differently, clearly my husband was wayy more sensitive to it than we were. All of his reactions were from half a purple potato, which was tiny to begin with.

Solanine is mostly in the skin. The potatoes I bought were not green, they were not bitter, and they had no sprouts growing out of them so there was no way I could tell the solanine levels in them. It is possible that the vendor at the farmers market sold me an older batch of potatoes from his storage or that the potatoes sat out in the sun for too long. Both the reasons lead to an increased production of solanine.

My only BIG mistake was not peeling them. Lesson learned.

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