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Taking inventory - the poisonous potato!

Taking Inventory: Poisonous Potato

Do not eat!

There are a lot of tasty things that you can grow in Minecraft. Carrots! Wheat! Beetroot! Melons! But there’s one thing that’ll occasionally pop out of your garden fields that you shouldn’t put in your mouth under any circumstances. It’s our item of the month – the poisonous potato.

Poisonous potatoes started growing in the fields of the Overworld in the Pretty Scary Update in October 2012 – the same update that added command blocks, the Wither, and witches – before it finally (yet briefly) got the attention it deserved in the Poisonous Potato Update. They’ve changed their look over time, arriving at their current texture in the 2019 Village & Pillage Update

Whenever you harvest a potato plant, there’s a one-in-20 chance that you’ll get a poisonous potato. The nice thing, though, is that they appear in addition to the normal harvest that you get from the plant – you don’t lose a regular potato in the process. They can also occasionally be found in shipwreck supply chests.

Unless you're playing the short but sweet Poisonous Potato Update, there’s not actually very much you can do with a poisonous potato. You can’t plant it. You can’t bake it. As you can see in the image above, they won’t turn into compost. All you can do is eat it – and that is absolutely not recommended. While it’ll restore a bit of hunger, there’s a three-in-five chance that it’ll also poison you (the clue’s in the name, folks) – draining four points of health. You must be a real spud connoisseur take that risk!

Potatoes in the real world are a bit more complicated than the ones in Minecraft – they’re all a bit poisonous, in that they contain toxic compounds called “glycoalkaloids” that taste bitter and cause headaches, diarrhea and cramps. Luckily, these poisons can be easily destroyed by cooking the potato, and so potato poisoning is extremely rare.

Potatoes are a “New World” crop, meaning that they originate in the Americas, but the Spanish brought them to Europe in the 16th century and today they’re grown all over the world. Potatoes played a big part in the European population boom of the 19th century, but early potato plants were vulnerable to a disease called “blight” and the spread of this disease was part of the causes of the Great Famine in Ireland in the mid-1800s, which killed a million people and caused more than a million more to flee the country. 

Blight is still kind of a problem today, but genetic modification techniques have produced blight-resistant potatoes and modern diets don’t depend as much on a single crop as they used to. So there’s no need to fear blight, or glycoalkaloids. Enjoy your potatoes as part of a well-balanced diet!

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere
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