Being in a legit survival situation means you might have to eat things you don’t want to eat, be it in a bug-in situation or struggling through a classic “in the woods” event.
And this extends to how you are preparing your food, too, even some staples you usually eat day to day.
For instance, things you cook and take for granted may now be eaten cold or raw. This can impact the safety and quality of the food for you, sure, but necessity will determine what you can do and when.
How about potatoes? Can you eat raw potatoes in a survival situation if you have to?
Yes, you can eat raw potatoes, but they contain solanine and lectins that can cause digestive upset in large quantities. Green potatoes may be dangerously toxic, and should never be eaten as they can result in severe poisoning.
Potatoes are a nutritious and filling veggie that features in nearly every meal of the average American, and they can be great survival food in any case but this assumes you are going to cook them.
Raw, they can still save your life but they don’t taste too good and can cause more problems than they solve if you aren’t careful. Keep reading and we will tell you everything you need to know.
Caution: Green Potatoes Can Be Dangerously Toxic!
Potatoes, believe it or not, are members of the nightshade family. Other well-known plants in this category include peppers and tomatoes, among others.
Some members of the nightshade family, most notably deadly nightshade, contain the dangerously toxic alkaloid solanine which is produced by these plants to defend themselves from herbivorous predators.
Some plants have a little, some have a lot, and the concentration varies depending on the plant’s health and the part, but all have it, including our humble potato here.
Particularly, you must be on the lookout for green potatoes. If potatoes are exposed to too much sunlight they will turn green, and this green hue indicates an increase in the concentration of solanine in the potato.
Solanine is dangerously toxic, causing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, headaches, fever, and even death in some cases.
Green potatoes should never be eaten raw or cooked for that matter: cooking does not disrupt or destroy these toxins!
If you spot large green spots on any potato it is best to discard them altogether as these are signs of solanine accumulation.
Where Can You Find Potatoes?
Potatoes, contrary to popular opinion, are not native to Europe but instead come from the Americas, growing from the Southern U.S. all the way down through South America.
It was the Spanish that retrieved and later brought potatoes back to Europe.
Potatoes grow best in warmer temperate climates but they can grow in nearly any region if you have the right soil compost to put them in.
You can usually find potatoes growing wild and unguarded throughout their natural range, and they are of course a fixture on many farms and gardens throughout the land.
I’m not advocating for the stealing of potatoes from your neighbors, but if you are in a bind and need to eat raw potatoes to survive, then you can usually find them growing somewhere.
Potatoes are quite calorie dense, and have a well-rounded profile of protein, vitamins, and minerals making them an excellent staple and one that can be a true blessing during a survival situation.
The balanced ratio of protein and carbohydrates present in a common russet potato will provide you energy in the short-term and over time, an important consideration.
Looking at the vitamin content of potatoes, they have a reasonable amount of B complex vitamins, including B3, B6, B2, and B1 along with vitamin A and lots of vitamin K.
The mineral content is similarly impressive, with lots of calcium, phosphorus, tons of potassium, and a smattering of other minerals like iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Potatoes can certainly provide you with the calories you need to keep your body working. Still, it can also provide the micronutrients needed for sustained energy and good health over time, which is especially important during any long-term survival scenario.
Though the digestibility of potatoes suffers somewhat when eating raw, your body will still be able to make use of most of the nutrients present in them.
What Do Raw Potatoes Taste Like?
Raw potatoes, sadly, are nowhere near as tasty as their baked or fried counterparts.
Raw potatoes are firm, starchy, and for lack of a better word bland, with a noticeable earthy tang to them.
But if you are in a survival situation it is still an adequate food and a great alternative to starvation and will provide some much-needed calories to power you through the day.
Can You Eat the Skin of a Raw Potato?
Yes, you can, but the skin is notable for potentially causing significant digestive upset when eaten raw.
Also, green spots on the skin of the potato are an indication of intense solanine buildup, so best to avoid it altogether if you have doubts…
Are the Sprouts of Raw Potatoes Safe to Eat?
No. Sprouts are not good eating and may not be safe to eat depending on the age and condition of the potato itself. The sprout itself is a mini-stalk that may contain toxins and should best be avoided.
How About Raw Potato Roots?
No, avoid eating potato roots entirely. They contain high amounts of solanine, all the time, and can be very dangerous if ingested.
Can You Eat Potato Leaves?
No. Potato leaves, like the roots, contain solanine. Though they typically contain less than the potato itself and the roots, they are not safe to eat.
So, sticking to the potato tubers or potatoes themselves is generally a safe bet.
Can You Eat Potato Fruits?
Unknown to most folks, potato plants occasionally produce fruits that look like small green tomatoes.
These should also be avoided at all costs as they contain high concentrations of solanine and can cause poisoning if eaten raw or cooked.
The bottom line is that all parts of the potato plant (including the potato itself in some cases, as discussed) contain this dangerous toxin and should not be eaten.
What Other Risks are There if You Eat Raw Potato?
Other than the obvious risk of solanine poisoning we have discussed already, it should be pointed out that potatoes contain resistant starches that are tough to digest when raw, which can cause constipation and other problems.
They also contain lectins, a type of protein that can potentially cause further digestive distress, especially if eaten in large enough quantities. Luckily, unlike solanine, lectins are neutralized when potatoes are cooked.
But unfortunately, we are talking about eating potatoes raw, and in this case most folks will experience serious diarrhea and nausea after eating as little as one raw potato, though individual tolerance varies and the amount of lectins present varies from potato to potato.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that potatoes, while very nutritious, are not nutritionally complete and you will eventually suffer from malnutrition in addition to all the other issues discussed if you eat them exclusively over time.
If you have any choice, always supplement your diet with as many unique foods as possible to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.