When we go grocery shopping, we always try to buy food that has the longest expiration date possible. That way we’re more likely to consume it before it goes bad, and we waste as little food as possible.

Expiration dates are helpful in most of the grocery store, but there’s one exception – fresh produce. You won’t find an expiration date on a banana, apple or potato. In most cases, it’s pretty easy to tell if produce is ripe just by looking at it, but it’s not always as easy to tell how long it will be before it goes bad.

More than once, we have bought a bag of potatoes intending to whip up some mashed potatoes, french fries or baked potatoes, but by the time we go to use the potatoes, we notice that they have sprouted.

Sprouts are those little knobby things that protrude from the potatoes. If the potatoes had never been picked, these sprouts would grow and form new plants.

But the potatoes on our kitchen counter have been picked. If they have sprouts on them, do we need to toss them and decide on a different side dish for dinner, or is it safe to eat potatoes with sprouts on them?

First of all, never eat the sprouts. Experts agree on this. The sprouts are toxic, and if you eat them, you might end up with a headache, vomiting or even a digestive issue. Just say no to sprouts.

The question becomes, if we cut off the sprouts, is the rest of the potato safe to eat? If you ask Poison Control, you would be told to throw the potatoes away. Honestly, that’s what we usually do, but don’t be so quick to dump those potatoes in the trash.

Dr. Rich Novy works with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and he thinks there are times when it is okay to eat a potato that has sprouts on it. If the potato is still firm like it was when you bought it, he believes it is okay to cut off the sprouts and eat the rest of the potato. On the other hand, if the potato is soft or mushy, throw the potato away; it is not safe to consume.

The best approach is not to buy more potatoes than you’re going to eat and to store them properly when you get them home. In order to prevent sprouts, you need to prevent the potatoes from getting wet. Never put them in ziplock bags or other air-tight containers where they could accumulate moisture. Instead, an open container like a bowl without a lid or a paper bag that allows for airflow will help your potatoes last longer. It’s also a good idea to keep them in a dark, cool place.

Have you ever eaten a potato that has sprouts on it? What’s your favorite way to eat a potato?