Every once in a while — less often than a few years ago — you’ll open a bag of potato chips and see one which isn’t like the others. It’s green-ish, especially around the edges, like the salty tasty snack chip above. And it is safe to eat.
Potatoes grow underground and are shielded from sunlight — usually. Sometimes, parts emerge above ground, and those sections turn green as chlorophyll develops. And for this to happen, the light need not be natural light. Most green potatoes don’t make it to the stores — be it in the produce section or in crinkly foil bags — for a variety of reasons, but really, who wants to eat a green potato?
That said, on occasion, a green-tinted potato may find its way into a potato chip factory and, eventually, a slice thereof may sneak into a bag of chips. (It’s less and less likely though, due to advances in technology. Here’s a video showing how potato chips are made in a large factory setting; if you fast-forward to about 2:50, you’ll hear about the cameras used to identify and reject flawed chips.) Chlorophyll is non-toxic and harmless, but, as mental_floss points out, “in the process of a potato going green [. . .] conditions are also right for it to synthesize more of [ . . . ] poison called solanine.” Solanine, in large enough amounts, is really bad for you — it can cause “vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and even paralysis of the central nervous system,” per Snopes.
But don’t worry too much. One would have to eat about twenty or so green potatoes in a day to fall ill. A medium-sized potato yields about 36 chips, per the video linked to above; it’s safe to say that if you ate 720 potato chips in a day, you’re going to get sick, even if the chips aren’t of the green variety. So if you come across a green chip, you’re probably OK.
On the other hand, don’t eat the green sprouts or leaves from the potatoes themselves. As the Straight Dope recounted — a story which is likely apocryphal, but regardless, demonstrative — “during World War II some refugees broke into an abandoned house and found a quantity of old sprouted potatoes in the basement. The potatoes themselves were too dried out to eat, so the refugees made a stew out of the sprouts — and got incredibly sick as a result.”
So, for perhaps the only time ever, this is one case where a vegetable’s fried yellow chips are better for you than its green leaves.
From the Archives: Headless Potato: The origins of Mr. Potato Head, and the part you had to provide yourself.
Related: A 20 pack of Uncle Raye’s Green Onion potato chips. At the time of this writing, they cost $1,211.93. That’s about $60 a bag.