QUESTION: Do potato plants need a lot of sun? I want to make sure I have enough light to plant them in my garden. – Tom E
ANSWER: The green parts of potato plants that grow above the ground need six hours of sunlight each day to thrive, but the tubers of the potato themselves (the part that we eat) needs to be protected from the sun’s rays. Potato tubers that are exposed to sunlight develop dangerous amounts of the toxic alkaloid solanine when they develop “eyes” and start to sprout.
You can tell that a potato contains poisonous solanine when it has turned a bit green. Those green areas must be cut off before consuming the potato. Solanine is also present in the leaves, stems, and small green fruits that resemble tomatoes, which is why these parts should not be eaten. All potatoes contain some amount of solanine, and cooking them renders the toxic alkaloid harmless, which is why eating raw potatoes will sometimes make a person ill.
Poisoning due to ingestion of solanine has the following symptoms: confusion, diarrhea, digestive discomfort, drowsiness, vomiting, shortness of breath, and weak or rapid pulse. If you consume too much solanine and go without treatment, the resulting poisoning can lead to death due to respiratory failure.