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Blue Potatoes Yield Green Water?

purple_potatoesSome time ago I boiled some blue/purple potatoes and discovered the water had turned bright green.  Not being sure what that could possibly be (on store-bought spuds) I threw it all out.

This summer, I grew my own blue potatoes, and the same thing happened.  I know these are clean and chemical free, since I grew them myself.  What caused the water to turn green, and is it safe?

— Jennifer Armstrong
Saratoga Springs, NY

Ah, welcome to the fascinating (I’m not being fascicious, I truly think it’s fascinating) world of food science.

Questions like yours are also great because they help me realize that the mandatory Introduction to Food & Food Science I had to take during my college education does come in handy!

So, why did your blue potatoes yield green water?  Nope, it wasn’t a mutant Monsanto potato.  This just comes back to a very basic science concept — pH levels.

Most tap water is slightly alkaline, which doesn’t jive well with the more acidic potato environment.  Alas, the blue pigment (caused by the presence of antioxidants known as anthocyanins) left a green tint in your water.

If you’d like to prevent this next time, add a small amount of vinegar to your cooking water.

While we’re on the subject of potatoes and the color green, I think it’s worth reminding everyone that while this example is no cause for concern, a potato with a green tint on it is.

A green potato has high levels of solanine, which can result in unpleasant symptoms when consumed.


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