Whether it’s plain or fully loaded with gobs of sour cream, cheddar and smoked bacon bits, a baked potato is the perfect side serving for anyone looking to fill a starch craving. As you dip your fork into the pillowy center of the potato, anticipating your first bite, a black spot in the middle may stop you in your tracks. Don’t be discouraged. Although the black spot may look unappetizing, it is not harmful.

Bruised Spuds

When its skin is broken, the potato forms a second layer of protection. This layer is thicker and lies just below the skin as a black spot, promoting healing. Bruising deep inside the potato is the result of pressure from a heavy object lying on top or from a drop from a height of 6 inches or more. Simply cut the bruise — the black spot — out of the baked potato. The rest of the spud is safe to eat.

Hollowheart Centers

A dark brown to black cavity or hole in the center of your baked potato may be the result of a condition known as hollowheart. Temperature fluctuations and rapid growth during the early part of the growing season are the usual causes. Although the center is unsightly, the surrounding potato flesh is edible. Cut out the darkened center with a sharp knife, and enjoy the remainder of the baked potato.

Stressed Potatoes

Sometimes stressed potatoes develop black centers, a condition known as internal black spot. The black spot usually begins to develop around harvest time and, much like the blossom-end rot that develops in tomatoes, is triggered by dry conditions that cause physical stress to the potato during its growth cycle. Despite the presence of internal black spot, the part of the potato that does not contain the blackness is safe to eat.

Black Spot Versus Dot

Do not confuse black spot with black dot. Black spot is the result of physical damage to the potato, whereas black dot is a disease that results in yellowing and wilting of the potato plant. Small black dots of fungus appear on the plants, sometimes spreading to the potatoes themselves, and are often accompanied by silvery gray patches of discoloration on the outer skin of the potato. Potatoes infected with black dot are inedible and do not make it to market. If you harvest such potatoes from a home garden, they should be neither eaten nor composted to avoid spread of the disease.