Potatoes grow sprouts to produce new potato plants. The sprouts develop when environmental conditions are conducive to potato growth. Warm temperatures, light and a moist environment are required for sprout development.
Potatoes do not require soil to sprout. The sprouts (or "eyes") grow from buds on the surface of the potato skin. Once a potato sprouts it can be cut into pieces and planted, with each piece containing at least one sprout. A plant then emerges from the ground approximately two weeks later.
The leaves of the potato plant produce food for the plant from sunlight. When they begin producing more food than the plant needs the extra food is stored underground in the roots, which then become the potatoes. The energy from the plant transfers to the roots until the tops die, indicating the potatoes are ready for harvesting.
Potato sprouts should be removed from potatoes before eating them. They contain a toxic substance called solanine that can be harmful if ingested. Some symptoms of poisoning include delirium, diarrhea, dilated pupils and fever.
Potatoes are a major food source for much of the world. Consisting of approximately 80 percent water and 20 percent solids, they are comprised of carbohydrates. They also include a variety of other vitamins and minerals.