When you’re talking about survival, real survival, your wants and preferences will rarely factor into the equation. Survival is mostly about making the best of a bad situation, or choosing the lesser of the two evils much of the time.
As always, necessity is going to be the ultimate decider of your actions. This certainly applies when it comes to the food you eat, and you may not always have a well-rounded diet or even food that is properly cooked.
Let’s look at potatoes. Potatoes are certainly popular and surprisingly nutritious, but can you survive on raw potatoes?
Yes, you can survive on raw potatoes for a time. Potatoes are calorie dense and highly nutritious, though they are not nutritionally complete.
Raw potatoes may also cause diarrhea and other digestive problems when eaten often, and you should never eat green potatoes or any other parts of the plant because they contain toxic solanine.
The humble potato is one of the most commonly eaten staple foods around the world, and it is an inseparable fixture in all kinds of cuisines.
Also, potatoes can be prepared in all kinds of ways, but they are safe to eat raw in limited quantities.
You can do a lot worse than potatoes as a survival staple, but you can’t live on them forever, and you cannot rule out the possibility of eating a toxic potato which can be bad news.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about surviving on potatoes below…
Take Care! Green Potatoes Contain Toxic Solanine!
One thing you must be aware of concerning potatoes in a survival situation, and a fact that most people don’t know, is that they can be extremely toxic. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true!
As it turns out, potatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants, which includes several illustrious members that are shockingly dangerous.
Now, the everyday potatoes that you and I eat from the grocery store aren’t toxic, of course (or at least not toxic most of the time) but all parts of the potato plant do have this toxin…
The trick is that the potato itself doesn’t develop this toxin when it is protected from sunlight.
You can tell if a potato is toxic simply by looking at it: if you see green skin or flesh, it contains solanine, and the more green you see, or the deeper the color, the more dangerous it is!
Also, don’t even think about cooking it to make it safe because cooking will only slightly reduce the overall load of toxins.
If you see a green potato, get rid of it, never eat it and don’t feed it to animals whether it is raw or cooked!
Solanine is bad news, and in small doses will cause serious vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and nausea but higher doses will lead to migraines, high fevers, and death.
Can You Eat Raw Potatoes to Survive?
Yes, it is safe to eat a raw potato assuming it isn’t green as detailed above. Although they are fairly digestible when they are raw, they aren’t very tasty, and eating too many raw potatoes can also cause indigestion.
But if you’re in a pinch and need calories desperately you can do a lot worse than eating a raw potato.
Can You Eat Cooked Potatoes to Survive?
Yes, you definitely can and you should if you have time and opportunity to cook them.
A cooked potato will have somewhat lower amounts of vitamins and minerals compared to a raw one; most of them will be more bioavailable and accessible to your body because they’ll be easier to digest.
Also, not for nothing, a potato that is cooked is far tastier than a raw one…
Potatoes Nutritional Info
Potatoes are probably best loved as a delicious side dish, either in the form of french fries, hash browns or just a good old-fashioned baked potato, but don’t forget they are surprisingly nutritious.
Potatoes have a lot to offer a survivor in terms of both macro and micronutrients, and you can do a whole lot worse than adding potatoes to your survival menu when you’re in a pinch.
Right up front, potatoes can give you a good shot of protein and plenty of carbohydrates that can contribute to both short and long-term energy.
The vitamin profile is also impressive, and most of the B-complex vitamins are here including thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and also vitamins K and A. Mineral content is likewise good.
You’ll find plenty of phosphorus and calcium, a great amount of potassium which can help with your cellular function and electrolyte levels, and a small amount of other similarly important minerals, such as copper, manganese, zinc, and iron.
Overall, the potato is considered a staple food for a reason, and it can definitely keep you alive when the chips are down, no pun intended.
However, potatoes are not nutritionally complete and don’t have everything that your body needs. More on that in a bit.
Are Potato Skins Safe to Eat?
Yes, generally, and assuming the potato is not green it isn’t toxic. But raw potato skins are particularly prone to causing significant digestive troubles in quite a few people, particularly when raw.
Also, make sure you look over the skin for any green spots, because even on an otherwise good, safe potato those green patches contain toxins, so you never want to eat that.
Are Potato Roots Safe to Eat?
No, not raw or cooked. Potatoes are a root vegetable, but you don’t want to eat the actual frond-like roots of the plant at all because they have tons of that terrible toxin, solanine.
You can’t make them safe by cooking them, so discard that part of the plant entirely.
Can You Eat Potato Leaves and Stalks?
No. All other parts of the potato plant, including the leaves, stalks, vines and so forth contain solanine in varying amounts, and are therefore dangerous.
No matter how hungry you are, eating these parts, raw or cooked, is only going to make your life and your situation a whole lot worse…
Where are Potatoes Found?
Potatoes, today, can be found growing all over the world. Also, potatoes are actually native to the Americas, not from Ireland as is popularly thought, but we’re here for practical potato facts, not potato history…
All you need to know is that potatoes can grow almost anywhere as long as the soil composition is suitable for them, though they grow best and warmer areas.
If you know what to look for and how to identify the plant, and also how to identify a safe potato, you can find them growing wild in many areas, and of course they are grown in tremendous abundance on commercial farms and in smaller gardens… basically anywhere you can find people.
Are There Health Risks Associated with Eating Potatoes?
The single biggest health risk associated with eating potatoes, particularly raw potatoes, is ingesting a dangerous dose of solanine.
A small dose will make you miserable, but is generally manageable though it can complicate your survival situation dramatically if you’re suffering from crippling diarrhea or vomiting.
So long as you pay attention, avoid eating any potato that was obviously exposed to the sun, and also avoid any green potatoes you shouldn’t have much to worry about.
Potatoes can be safely eaten raw, as mentioned, but they’ll be easier to digest overall if you cook them.
Eating large amounts of raw potatoes can cause other problems, but smaller amounts are okay.
Also, of serious concern for long-term survival scenarios, particularly when your food variety is quite limited, is that potatoes are not nutritionally complete. Yes, they provide plenty of calories and even some protein.
Yes, they have many vitamins and minerals that humans need to survive.
But, no, they don’t have everything that people need to survive and trying to live on nothing but potatoes means that malnutrition is definitely going to be a factor in time.