Potatoes are one of the most popular and versatile vegetables consumed around the world. They can be prepared in many different ways – mashed, fried, baked, boiled, roasted, etc. However, nothing is more disappointing than cutting into a potato and finding it wet and mushy on the inside. So what causes this, and are potatoes actually supposed to be wet inside?
What Causes Wet Rot in Potatoes?
Finding a potato with a wet and mushy interior is an indication of wet rot. This is a common disease that affects potatoes and is caused by bacteria. The bacteria responsible for wet rot can come from a few different sources:
- Bacteria naturally present in the soil where potatoes are grown
- Contaminated cutting tools used for seed potatoes or during harvest
- Unsanitary storage conditions
Once the bacteria gets into the potato through cuts, cracks, or bruises in the skin, it spreads quickly as the bacteria feeds on the starch inside the potato. This causes the interior to turn mushy and watery as the cells break down. The rot will usually start from the center and spread outwards over time.
Ideal Conditions for Wet Rot
There are a few factors that can increase the chances of potatoes developing wet rot during growth, harvest, storage, and transportation:
- Excess moisture in the soil during growth
- Damage to potato tubers from machinery or tools during harvest
- Storage in cool, damp conditions
- Lack of sufficient airflow during storage and transport
- Bruised or cut potatoes that are then stored
The bacteria thrives in cool, wet conditions. Therefore, any environment that allows moisture to build up on potatoes makes them very susceptible to infection and the development of wet rot.
Are Potatoes Supposed to be Wet Inside?
So to answer the original question – no, potatoes are not supposed to be wet inside when raw. A raw potato should have a starchy, dry flesh when cut into. Wet rot is considered a defect and a sign of underlying bacteria infection.
Some key signs that a raw potato has an abnormal interior include:
- Watery, mushy texture
- Grey, brown or black color
- Foul odor
- Visible bacterial growth or slime
This type of decay means the potato should be discarded and not consumed. When cooked, a healthy potato should still retain its structure and not turn to mush when boiled or baked.
How to Prevent Wet Rot in Potatoes
While wet rot is difficult to control completely, there are ways to reduce the chances of potatoes developing this condition:
- Plant certified disease-free seed potatoes – Many potato diseases are transmitted via infected seed tubers.
- Avoid overwatering – Ensure proper drainage and do not over-irrigate while potatoes are growing.
- Allow potatoes to cure after harvest – Curing helps heal wounds and toughens skin.
- Handle potatoes gently to prevent bruising – Bruises are entry points for bacteria.
- Disinfect storage and transport containers – Clean crates, bags etc. to remove bacteria.
- Store potatoes in cool, dry, well ventilated conditions – Ideal conditions are around 40-50°F with 80-90% relative humidity.
- Inspect potatoes regularly and remove any with decay – This prevents spread to healthy potatoes.
Following good agricultural and storage practices reduces the chances of potatoes developing wet rot. But it is very difficult to prevent completely, especially when working with large volumes of potatoes. Some level of defects and decay are always expected with potato tubers being living organic material.
Is it Safe to Eat Potatoes with Wet Rot?
Potatoes showing any signs of wet rot or bacterial decay should always be discarded. The bacteria responsible for wet rot can be pathogenic to humans in some cases. Consuming affected potatoes can potentially lead to illness or digestive issues. The toxins released by the bacteria can also not be destroyed through cooking. So it is not recommended to try and salvage the healthy parts of a potato with wet rot.
Issues that can arise from consuming potatoes with advanced wet rot include:
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Abdominal pain and intestinal discomfort
- Headache and fever in severe cases
If the potato has just started becoming soft with minor interior decay, you may be able to cut away the damaged part and consume the remainder. But this is not advisable for potatoes with significant wet rot. Erring on the side of caution is recommended.
How to Use Potatoes with Wet Rot
While potatoes with wet rot should not be eaten, they don’t necessarily have to be thrown away either. Here are some ways you can make use of potatoes with wet rot:
- Chop up diseased potatoes and add to your compost pile.
- Bury wet rot potatoes around 12 inches deep in garden beds to let them decompose naturally.
- Chop up potatoes and mix with animal feed if you have livestock.
- Dispose of diseased potatoes in yard waste bins or bags for municipal collection.
- Contact local farmers to see if they are willing to take wet rot potatoes for animal feed.
Letting the potatoes rot naturally in soil is an excellent way to return nutrients to the earth. Just ensure they are buried deep enough to prevent animals from digging them up. With some creative thinking, potatoes with wet rot don’t have to go completely to waste.
- Wet, mushy interiors in raw potatoes are caused by bacteria that leads to wet rot decay.
- Ideal conditions that increase the risk of wet rot include cool, moist environments.
- Potatoes are not supposed to be wet inside when raw. This indicates bacterial infection.
- Avoiding bruises, proper drying and storage can help prevent wet rot.
- Potatoes with wet rot should be discarded and not consumed due to food safety risks.
- Diseased potatoes can be safely composted or buried in soil instead of throwing out.
Finding a potato that is wet and mushy on the inside is never a pleasant surprise. While potatoes are not meant to be wet inside when raw, wet rot decay is a common issue caused by problematic storage conditions and bacteria. Potatoes showing any symptoms of wet rot should be discarded and not consumed. But with some creativity, diseased potatoes can be put to use through composting or as animal feed instead of simply being tossed in the trash. Following best practices for potato handling, curing, and storage can help reduce the risks of tubers developing dangerous wet rot.