Potatoes are a staple food that is widely used in many cuisines. They are long-lasting if stored properly, but it is important to know when they have gone bad to avoid food poisoning.
Some common signs that potatoes have gone bad include:
- Sprouting: Potatoes that have begun to sprout are no longer good for eating. The sprouts contain solanine, which can be toxic if consumed in large amounts.
- Wrinkling: Potatoes that have become soft and wrinkled are also a sign that they are no longer good for eating. This is because the moisture inside the potato has escaped, and the potato has started to dehydrate.
- Soft spots: Soft spots or mushy areas on the surface of a potato are a sign of spoilage and should be discarded.
- Discoloration: Potatoes that have turned green or have dark spots are no longer good for eating—the green color results from exposure to light, which can cause the buildup of solanine. The dark spots are a sign of rot.
In addition to these physical signs, it is also important to check the odor of potatoes. If they have a musty or moldy odor, they should be discarded.
It’s important to store potatoes to maximize their shelf life and prevent spoilage properly. If you notice any of the signs of spoilage mentioned above, it’s best to discard the potatoes to avoid food poisoning.
The Shelf Life of Potatoes
The shelf life of potatoes can vary, depending on several factors, such as the variety, storage conditions, and preparation. On average, potatoes can last:
- Raw, whole potatoes: 2 to 3 months when stored in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or root cellar.
- Cooked potatoes: 3 to 5 days when stored in the refrigerator.
- Cut or peeled potatoes: 1 to 2 days when stored in water or covered in the refrigerator.
It is important to note that potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. The cold temperature can cause the starches to turn into sugar, resulting in a sweeter taste and a softer texture.
Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place with good air circulation to prevent spoilage. They should also be kept away from other fruits and vegetables, as they give off ethylene gas which can cause potatoes to spoil faster.
It’s best to use potatoes within a few weeks to a few months of purchase, as their quality and flavor may deteriorate over time. If you have any doubts about the freshness of potatoes, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard them.
How to Extend the Shelf Life of Potatoes
To extend the shelf life of potatoes, it is important to store them properly. Here are some tips to help you do that:
- Store in a cool, dark place: Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place with good air circulation, such as a pantry or root cellar. The ideal temperature is around 45-50°F. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator, as the cold temperature can cause the starches to turn into sugar, resulting in a sweeter taste and a softer texture.
- Keep them dry: Potatoes should be stored in a well-ventilated area to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to rot. You can place them in a paper or cloth bag to absorb excess moisture.
- Avoid light exposure: Light can cause potatoes to sprout and turn green, a sign that solanine has built up. Wrap them on paper or place them in a dark area to prevent light exposure.
- Please keep away from ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables: Potatoes should be stored away from other fruits and vegetables, as they give off ethylene gas which can cause potatoes to spoil faster.
- Use within a reasonable time frame: Potatoes should be used within a few weeks to a few months of purchase, depending on the variety and storage conditions.
How to Tell if Potatoes Have Gone Bad
Here are some signs that potatoes have gone bad:
- Sprouts: Potatoes that have begun to sprout are a sign that they have been stored for too long. The sprouts contain solanine, a naturally occurring toxin.
- Soft spots: Potatoes with soft spots or discoloration are a sign of decay and should be discarded.
- Green areas: Potatoes that have turned green contain solanine and should be cut away before consumption.
- Wrinkled skin: Potatoes with wrinkled skin may be a sign of drying out, which can reduce their quality and flavor.
- Musty or moldy odor: Potatoes with a musty or moldy odor are a sign of spoilage and should be discarded.
What to Do With Old or Soft Potatoes
If you have old or soft potatoes, here are some ways you can use them:
- Cook and mash them: If the potatoes are still in good enough condition to cook, you can peel and mash them to use in recipes like potato pancakes, potato soup, or shepherd’s pie.
- Roast them: Cut the potatoes into wedges or chunks, season with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then roast in the oven until crispy.
- Make fries or chips: Cut the potatoes into thin slices and then fry or bake to make homemade french fries or potato chips.
- Use in a stew or soup: Cut the potatoes into small pieces and add them to a stew or soup for added texture and flavor.
- Compost: If the potatoes are too soft or spoiled to use, add them to your compost pile to help create rich soil for your garden.
Why Potatoes Go Soft
Potatoes go soft for a few reasons:
- Age: Potatoes can go soft over time as they break down and lose their moisture content. This is why it’s important to store potatoes in a cool, dark place and use them within a few months.
- High humidity: Potatoes stored in a place with high humidity can absorb moisture, causing them to become soft. This can also lead to the growth of mold and bacteria, which can further deteriorate the potatoes.
- Exposure to light: Potatoes exposed to light can turn green, which is a sign that they have started to produce solanine, a naturally occurring toxin. Over time, this exposure to light can cause the potatoes to become soft and spoil.
- Physical damage: Potatoes bumped or jostled during storage can become bruised and soft, making them more prone to spoilage.
To extend the shelf life of potatoes, it’s important to store them in a cool, dark place with low humidity and to use them within a few months. If you notice that your potatoes have gone soft, it’s best to discard them, as soft potatoes are more prone to spoilage and can cause food poisoning if consumed.
Do Potatoes go Bad After They Sprout?
While it’s still possible to eat potatoes after they have sprouted, removing the sprouts and any green areas before consuming is best, it’s also a good idea to cook the potatoes, as cooking destroys most of the solanine.
If the potatoes have a significant amount of sprouts or green areas, it may indicate that they have been stored for too long or have been exposed to light, and it may be best to discard them to avoid the risk of solanine poisoning. Potatoes that are soft or have a musty or moldy odor are also signs of spoilage and should be discarded.
Do Potatoes Go Bad in the Fridge?
Yes, potatoes can go bad in the fridge. Storing potatoes in the refrigerator can cause them to go bad faster. The fridge’s cold temperature can cause the potatoes’ starch to break down into sugar more quickly, leading to a sweeter taste and a softer texture.
Additionally, potatoes are susceptible to damage from cold temperatures, which can cause them to develop black spots or become soft. The humidity levels in the refrigerator can also cause the potatoes to absorb moisture, making them spoil faster.
If you need to store potatoes for a short period, keeping them in a cool, dark place with low humidity, such as a pantry or basement, is best. If you need to store potatoes for longer, it’s best to keep them in a cool, dark place with low humidity, such as a root cellar.
Do Cooked Potatoes Go Bad?
Yes, cooked potatoes can go bad. Cooked potatoes can spoil if stored properly or left at room temperature for too long. Bacteria can grow rapidly on cooked potatoes left at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, which can cause the potatoes to spoil and cause food poisoning if consumed.
To extend the shelf life of cooked potatoes, it’s best to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Cooked potatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Before consuming, check for any signs of spoilage, such as a sour or rancid odor, mold, or discoloration.
Potatoes are a versatile and long-lasting food if stored properly. However, it is important to know the signs of spoilage and to discard potatoes that have gone bad to avoid food poisoning.
To extend their shelf life, store potatoes in a cool, dark place with good air circulation, keep them dry and avoid exposing them to light and ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables. When in doubt, err on caution and discard potatoes that are no longer fresh. While old or soft potatoes may not be suitable for raw consumption, they can still be used in cooked dishes like mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, or stews and soups.