What you see: Holes and chewed areas on the outside of your sweet potato
What it is: Love bites, likely from white grubs
Eat or toss: Peel off the damage and eat. As long as everything's healed, there shouldn't be anything here that could hurt you
We’re not the only creatures that like to eat sweet potatoes. So do white grubs, cream-colored beetle larvae that have a habit of leaving behind holes and chewed-on areas on the surface of sweet potatoes. The result is tubers with roughed up appearances and a few mysterious caverns. But no, the white grubs will not take up residence in the potato, so you don't have to worry about any bonus protein.
So what’s up with the gray, rough areas around the site of the nibbles? That’s just how the sweet potato healed over the wound, explains Brandon Parker, an agricultural extension agent for North Carolina State University. It’s actually evidence that the sweet potato was healthy because it was able to repair itself. It protected its insides well enough that you can safely rinse and then peel off the damaged area and enjoy the potato.
These little white grubs thrive in soils with a lot of grass and in zones near pasture. Those areas don’t get tilled the way fields do, leaving them with lots of food for grubs to nibble on. Sweet potatoes in those soils become just one more treat on which they chow down. The grubs can be pretty hard for farmers to eradicate without pesticides. So, if you’re buying organic you’re just that much more likely to share your sweet potato with a grub.
Brandon Parker - Extension Agent, Agriculture - Commercial Horticulture - Johnston County Center - North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension
Louisiana State University - College of Agriculture. Sweet Potato Insect Pest Management.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System - Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Sweet Potato Insect Pest Management.
North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission - Integrated Pest Management.
Clemson Cooperative Extension. Sweet Potato & Irish Potato Insects.
I may look banged up, but you should see the other guy.