Green spot on potato is not fatal, but it is bitter, so cut it out

Ask the Chef

November 10, 2002|By Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan | By Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan,Knight Ridder / Tribune

I have heard that when a potato starts turning green it is poisonous. The manager at my local supermarket says that is not true. What is the real answer?

Green potatoes won't kill you. That green part, which is called solanine, would have to be consumed in such large quantities to do any harm that you don't really have to worry about it.

Now the real concern about solanine, which, by the way, happens when potatoes are exposed to sunlight or even store light, is that the affected part of the potato develops a bitter taste. So whether or not you want to believe that solanine is poisonous, it's best just to cut that part of the potato away before cooking.

When it comes to what kind of potatoes to buy, choose 'em by how you use 'em.

Russets (or Idaho potatoes) and the similarly shaped long white potatoes are high-starch, low-moisture models ideal for baking and frying.

Pick up medium-size round red or white potatoes with thin skins when you want to boil or roast your spuds. They have a waxy flesh with less starch and more water than the bakers do.

You can mash Russets and red or white round potatoes, but buttery tasting Yukon Golds take the mashed potato prize. Those upstart new potatoes are just right for potato salad, and you can boil or roast them, too.

Jim Coleman is executive chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, a cookbook author and host of television and radio cooking shows. Candace Hagan is a food writer and cookbook author.

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