Last Updated on April 9, 2023
Potatoes are some of the most versatile and commonly consumed foods around the world. There are so many ways in which this root vegetable can be prepared. But can you eat potato leaves in addition to the root?
The harvested root of the potato plant is used for many culinary purposes such as making salads, chips, crisps, and many other dishes and snacks. It can even be ground into flour to make various baked goods. Keep reading to find out if the leaves of the potato plant are as versatile as the root.
What Are Potatoes?
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are a perennial vegetable belonging to the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Native to the Americas, they were domesticated by Native Americans in multiple locations. Wild species of potatoes can be found in various areas of the United States and Chile.
Potatoes have now been introduced and are cultivated in just about every continent in the world and are one of the world’s largest food crops.
All the different types and species of potatoes make a delicious and nutritious addition to any diet. They are a great source of vitamins C and B6 and have twice as much potassium as those found in a banana.
However, not all parts of the potato plants should be eaten. Just like other plants in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, some parts of the potato plant are poisonous if consumed.
Vegetables in the nightshade family produce fruits that are healthy and safe for consumption, but other parts of the plants and their foliage may contain a high concentration of a compound called solanine that is toxic to humans and many animals.
Are Potato Leaves Edible?
The simple and straightforward answer is no! “Irish” potato leaves are not edible and should not be consumed at any cost. Generally, however, depending on the variety of potatoes you can and can not eat potato leaves. Irish potato leaves produce steroidal alkaloids, solanine, and chaconine. These toxic compounds can be present in high concentrations in the leaves of potatoes, which could be harmful if consumed by both animals and humans. Sweet potato leaves however are perfectly safe to eat.
Solanine and chaconine are produced by plants as natural pesticides to protect themselves from insects devouring them. These two compounds, therefore, make the plants bitter tasting. This also helps the nightshade plants avoid being eaten by herbivores and various pathogens.
Solanine is present in all parts of the potato plant, but it is more concentrated in the leaves and stems, which are the parts of the plants that have to do with photosynthesis.
Some people are more sensitive to solanine and even a small amount can cause them to get sick. Children and small pets are also at a higher risk of solanine poisoning due to their small size. A concentration of 20mg of solanine per 100g of plant consumed can be toxic. Potato leaves are not and should not be used in the kitchen. Keeping them out of your kitchen will help you avoid accidental ingestion.
If you eat any part of a potato and it tastes bitter, you need to stop immediately. That bitter taste could be an indication that there is solanine present. If you ever accidentally consume it accidentally, however, there is no need to panic. Just drink plenty of fluids to try and flush it out. Monitor your symptoms over time. If you continue to feel worse, contact a doctor immediately. Potato leaves should never be eaten
Can You Eat Potato Greens?
Are potato leaves poisonous? Can you eat them? Absolutely not. The only part of the potato plant that you should eat is the root. Any part of the potato that is or has a green color should by no means be eaten. If eaten, it can lead to serious health issues and even death due to solanine poisoning.
Are Potato Plants Poisonous?
The whole potato plant is not poisonous. There are only certain parts of the potato plant that are poisonous. Potato leaves and plant parts that are not the actual potato are not edible and can be poisonous.
The leaves stem and any new shoots and buds of the potato plant contain high amounts of solanine. In addition to this, potato tubers (the actual potato) that have been exposed to sunlight for an extended period of time and turned green also contain high amounts of solanine and should not be eaten.
The only part of the potato plant that is safe to eat is the underground tuber which has not been exposed to the sun and has no green color on it. If you have stored your potatoes and they start to sprout, you must remove the sprouts before eating them. As long as the potatoes have no green pigment, they should be perfectly fine to eat.
If your stored potatoes have a small patch of green on the surface, you can simply trim it away and wash the potato and cook it. If you find that the flesh is also green, however, you should toss the whole potato.
Another part of the potato plant that should not be eaten is the little fruit that the flowers produce. These fruits look like small tomatoes and may be confusing especially to small children. They should not be eaten because they are also poisonous.
Animals should also be kept from eating any green parts of the potato plant. To keep your animals safe, fence off any areas where the plants are. Remove any leaves that fall onto the land where they may be accessed and consumed by livestock.
If you suspect that an animal has eaten any poisonous part of the potato plant, immediately seek veterinary care, and with the proper treatment, the animal should be fine.
Solanine poisoning rarely ever leads to death because you would have to eat extremely large quantities for it to have that effect. If you consume small quantities of solanine, here are some symptoms of poisoning that you may experience;
- Gastrointestinal pain such as a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, pain in the abdomen, loose bowels, nausea, and vomiting.
- Skin discomforts such as an itchy neck and overly sensitive skin
- Difficulty with breathing
- Feeling weak
- Weak or rapid pulse
- and in rare cases, death
Never make the mistake of thinking that cooking will destroy solanine from potato plants because it does not. It does not matter whether the potato is raw or cooked, they’re both toxic. Any part of the potato plant that is green is not fit for consumption, and uncooked potato tubers are inedible even if they do not have a green color.
Solanine poisoning is mostly displayed via gastrointestinal and neurological complications. Symptoms usually occur between 8 and 12 hours after ingestion of high-solanine foods.
Some scientific studies have shown that there is a correlation between the consumption of potatoes that have late blight, which increases the levels of solanine and other glycoalkaloids, and the occurrence of congenital spina bifida. birth defect in humans.
Although the mechanism of solanine poisoning is still to be well understood, it is best to avoid any vegetables that could potentially lead to poisoning.
Are Sweet Potato Leaves Edible?
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are often mistaken for nightshade because of the name similarity with potato, it might be tempting to think they are from the same family. Despite the name being similar, sweet potato does not belong to the nightshade or Solanaceae family and are not related to regular potatoes.
Unlike potato leaves, sweet potato leaves are edible. They do not contain any solanine and are not toxic. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooled and served as a side vegetable like spinach. They can also be added to stir-fries. Sweet potato leaves are a common ingredient in many Asian-style dishes.
Sweet potato leaves are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and therefore can be an excellent addition to your diet. They are rich in vitamins A, C, and B6, as well as manganese and potassium. The composition of these nutrients will depend on the variety of sweet potatoes.
Potato vs Sweet Potato Leaves
To avoid mistaking potato leaves for sweet potato leaves, it might be helpful to know how to clearly distinguish between the two by knowing their descriptions.
Potato leaves have a smooth leaf edge compared to the serrated edge of regular leaves. The leaf has an oval shape and may have notches that separate large lobes. They have a dark green color and would be bitter if you tasted them.
Sweet potato leaves on the other hand form a trailing vine. They are heart-shaped or have deep notches The leaves have a glossy green appearance that may also have a reddish tint. They have prominent veins that radiate from the base of the leaf. They can be medium to large in size and have a cordate or heart shape with pointed tips.
Sweet potato leaves grow in an alternating pattern and may have multiple lobes, known as palmate, depending on the variety. The colors of sweet potato leaves can range from dark to yellow green, and purple, and they usually have a darker surface and be lighter on the underside of the leave. They glow on green, slender terms on creeping vines that can grow up to four meters in length. The top 10 cm of the leaves and stems are the most tender parts of the vine and are the most commonly consumed.
What to Do With Potato Leaves?
Since you cannot eat potato leaves, what can you do with them? One thing you can do with potato leaves is to compost them. Composted potato leaves can be an excellent source of nutrients to help enrich or improve the quality of your soil. If you decide to do this, be careful not to add too many of these leaves to your compost heap as they can cause the compost to become acidic. This would limit the number of plants you would be able to use your compost on.
Another thing you can do with potato plant leaves is to simply throw them away. Throw them away in a place that your animals will not be able to reach, as this may lead to various health problems. If you can, dig a hole in the ground and bury the leaves in there. Just remember not to plant anything in that area that does not like acidic soil or it will not grow well and may even die.
Can You Get Poisoned By Touching Potato Leaves?
Since we have explained extensively the problems associated with potato leaf consumption and solanine poisoning, you may be wondering if it is possible to get poisoned by touching or handling them. There is no need to worry about this because handling potato foliage poses no risk to you or your pets.
You would only get poisoned if you infested considerable amounts of the poisonous parts of the plant. You can safely handle or carry all the green parts of the potato plant without worrying about any possibility of poisoning.
Conclusion – Can You Eat Potato Leaves?
Potatoes are a popular and versatile vegetable that is consumed by all cultures throughout the world. This amazing vegetable however has certain parts of it that are not fit for consumption as they can lead to terrible health effects and even health if consumed in large enough quantities.
The stems and leaves of potatoes, along with those of all the plants in the nightshade family should not be consumed by humans or animals. The solanine contained in them is toxic. This also goes for any potato tuber that may have a green pigment on its flesh. It should be gotten rid of or used for composting.
You cannot destroy the solanine contained in potato greens by cooking. Under no circumstances should potato greens be consumed.
Sweet potatoes are from a different family to “Irish potatoes”. Even though it might be easy to think they are related, sweet potato leaves can be safely consumed and actually have various health benefits.
To avoid accidentally consuming poisonous potato leaves, learn how to distinguish between the two. You can read the guidelines provided in this article or use other resources to assist you in this regard.
We hope this article has been of great help in improving your understanding of potato plants and their dangers. While the risk of death from solanine poisoning is quite low, it is better to be safe than sorry. In conclusion, avoid any green parts of the potato plant.
Stay safe and happy gardening.
An aquaculture specialist and freelance writer. Passionate about anything sustainable living, such as growing your own food, and if you can do it in conjunction with fish farming, even better! I currently work as an aquaculture researcher where I can expand and share my knowledge and skills on aquaculture, crop farming and adding value to wastewater by using it to grow food products. I enjoy reading and learning as much as possible, and writing is another avenue for me to share the knowledge I gain with others. I want my writing to inspire people to try their hand at gardening, whether indoors or outdoors. You can even start by keeping a few houseplants indoors to help you gain a bit of confidence if you need to.