Argh! Once again, I find that a grocery store is stocking and selling green potatoes.  This is aggravating for two reasons:

1. Green potatoes are toxic. (They have their own listing in Medline, for FSM’s sake!) They aren’t likely to kill you, but they can make you feel pretty crappy.  There are even some mass poisonings on record from green potatoes.

2. Attempts to tell grocery staff that they are selling a potentially dangerous food will just make you frustrated. Either you get the stoner stock boy that just grunts at you and thinks you’re crazy, or you get the (significantly more annoying) organic veggie queen that will argue with you that the green makes the potatoes healthier.


Anyway. If you’re interested, potatoes, tomatoes, and a bunch of other plants are grouped together in the Solanaceae, a family of plants that are both yummy…and toxic.

Here’s some representative members, and links to info about their toxicity:

These toxins are sometimes useful, too, of course. Many human drugs are derived from this group of plants–atropine and scopalamine are two that have been known for some time.

Because the green tissues of these plants tend to be toxic, usually the insects that eat them are specially adapted to their plant hosts. Tobacco and Tomato Hornworms are two good examples of specialized herbivores that feast on Solanaceae.  They usually just poop out the toxins.

Thanks to RuTemple for the potato photo!

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Never try to talk to the employees about that sort of thing, they don’t care. Get the manager with the words “potential lawsuit”.

    I do have to say I’ve never seen stores here carry green potatoes. Might be living in a rural area that grows a lot of potatoes so people are more aware of the danger.

  2. Unfortunately, managers don’t care either. It’s why all I do now is rant on the internet about it. :p

  3. Dear lord. As an illustration of how silly things have gotten….Islamic terrorists may be hoarding green tomatoes!!!!
    For poison! OMG!


  4. Got a local news team that likes to do sensationalistic stories? “Is your grocer selling poisonous potatoes? Find out after the break…”

    Is it just me or does “sensationalistic” have way too many suffixes?

  5. And don’t eat uncooked red kidney beans.

    I was experimenting with getting my protein source from beans instead of meat so I set a pot of kidney beans to soak/cook. I didn’t test to make sure they were fully cooked before adding a spice mixture to the concoction. My first warning should have come from the first bowl I had, when the beans were still a little crunchy but they tasted good. By my second bowl I didn’t feel well and I went to lay down. The next three days I was so nauseous I wished I could thrown up. Lesson learned. I won’t eat anything raw I haven’t had raw before. Same with green potatoes.

  6. Indeed, there is something called red kidney bean poisoning:

    This is one of the reasons I get so aggravated with raw food advocates. It isn’t always a good idea.

  7. It’s always fun to be reminded of all the foods that are related to Belladonna and Nightshade. I’ve known people with sensitivities to the Solanaceae family, so I’ve had to memorize some of those before.

    And there are lots of reasons to find raw food advocates aggravating. Their misunderstanding of actual toxicities is just one.

  8. I do have some sympathy for the shop staff. They probably get a lot of nutters coming to them with tales of all the toxic veg in their store—just as I get earnest, well-meaning people emailing me to warn of the dangers of eating many of the vegetables I grow. So it’s hardly surprising that store staff shrug off warnings that are much more realistic.

  9. green potatoes are only posionous to kids so if adults eat them they would probably be fine

  10. Sorry, Kate, that’s incorrect. The toxin remains a toxin regardless of age of the person eating it!
    The relative dose/weight relationship, however, does make it more likely that children will be most affected.

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