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What's Safe to do with Potatoes and Tomatoes that had Late Blight?

Eating, Saving and Planting Tomatoes and Potatoes Infected with Late Blight.

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Late Blight on Tomato Leaves

Late Blight on Tomato Leaves

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Although plants infected with late blight tend to die quickly, you will probably be able to salvage some tomatoes and potatoes before the plants are gone. Are they safe to eat? Can you still store them? Should you risk replanting next year? Here are some answers.


Saving Late Blight Affected Tomatoes and Potatoes to Eat

If you managed to salvage some tomatoes or potatoes before your plants succumbed, they are probably safe to eat. Plant diseases don’t affect people. According to Meg McGrath, Assoc. Professor in Plant Pathology at Cornell University, “Parts with symptoms likely do not pose a health risk when consumed either, but they do not look appetizing and will have an off flavor. However, no published scientific study on this specific issue was found to confirm this conclusion, therefore consumers need to make their own decision on food safety.” Many frugal gardeners simply cut of the affected portions and enjoy the rest.

Canning Tomatoes Affected by Late Blight

One interesting note McGrath makes is that the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning says you shouldn’t use diseased tomatoes for canning because it can raise the pH of otherwise acidic tomatoes high enough to allow bacteria or other spoilers to grow. It can also affect the flavor, so choose only your freshest, healthiest tomatoes to preserve.

Saving Seed from Tomatoes and Potatoes Infected with Late Blight

Tomato diseases like to stick around from year to year, but late blight needs living tissue to survive. Drying, saving and using seeds from tomatoes infected with late blight is fine. However, it’s still smart to plant your tomatoes in a different section of your garden and to clean up all affected foliage and left over fruits in the fall. Throw them away, don’t compost.

Potatoes are another story. Since potatoes are still alive when you store them, they could harbor the disease. Eat and enjoy your potatoes this winter. Growing underground, their taste is probably unaffected. Just be sure you don’t leave any potatoes in the garden over winter and start with fresh seed potatoes in the spring.

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