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Botanical name: Solanum tuberosum



The potato is one of Germany's main foods; however, it did not originate in our region but in the Andes, where potatoes were already eaten 8000 years prior to the Christian era. Cultivation began around 900 b.c. They have been grown more widely since the 13th century, in the age of the Incas, who made the dry soil fertile with irrigation systems.

It is said that the potato reached Europe via Spain in 1555. It was first mentioned in Germany in 1588. At the beginning it served only as an ornamental plant. Not until around 200 years later, during the Seven Years' War from 1756 to 1763, did it become important as a food.

The use of the potato as a food is presumed to have taken so long because people didn't really know how to eat it. At the beginning, they ate the berries of the plant and suffered serious poisoning. Or the potato was spurned because it was assumed to have originated from the devil's saliva, and it was believed that people who ate potatoes would experience spiritual and moral decay.

The most important countries where it is grown today are – in addition to Germany – China, Russia, Poland, France, England, Italy and the Netherlands.


There are about 700 known varieties of potato in Europe and North America alone. They differ from one another in shape, colour, size, and in the length of the growth period, or in the time when they are harvested. They are divided into 'very early', 'early', 'moderately early', 'moderately late', and 'late' potatoes. Very early and early potatoes should be eaten soon after harvest. The other varieties are suitable for storing in the cellar. Potatoes are available throughout the year.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Potatoes are annuals of the nightshade family. They grow as protuberances from the underground shoots of the potato plant. They vary in colour: the spectrum ranges from whitish and light yellow to light red and purple. The fruit is white, yellow or lilac. The form of the tuber also varies: it may be oval, kidney-shaped or round, with a smooth or an indented surface.

Following are some examples of important varieties in our region:

*Very early: Atica, Berber, Christa

*Early: Cilena, Sieglinde

*Moderately early: Granola, Nicola

*Moderately late to very late: Aula

Potatoes are further divided into waxy or hard-boiling potatoes, predominantly hard-boiling potatoes, and floury, mealy or starchy potatoes. They are divided according to their starch content; the more starch a variety contains, the mealier it is.

* Waxy or hard-boiling potatoes

The tubers retain their structure when they are cooked and do not crack open. They have a mild to strong flavour. Some examples of this sort are Cilena, Sieglinde, Nicola, Princess and Selma.

* Predominantly hard-boiling potatoes

These have a medium firmness and crack open easily when they are cooked. They also have a mild to strong flavour. In this category belong Berber, Laura, Gala and Marabel.

* Mealy or starchy potatoes

Afra and Melina are mealy potatoes. They usually do not reach maturity until late and have a strong and aromatic flavour. After being cooked they have a very soft texture and can easily be mashed.


Potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, particularly starch. The protein they contain is of high quality.

In addition to important vitamins and minerals, the tubers contain secondary plant substances, above all phenolic acids, carotenoids and protease inhibitors. 100 g contain:

Potato, fresh
Potato, cooked
Energie (kcal)
Wasser (g)
Eiweiß (g)
Fett (g)
< 1
< 1
Kohlenhydrate (g)
Ballaststoffe (g)
Vitamin C (mg)
Vitamin B1 (μg)
Vitamin B6 (μg)
Folsäure (μg)
Niacin (NÄ) (mg)
Kalium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Phosphor (mg)
Eisen (mg)

Harmful substances

The sprouts and green areas on potatoes contain solanine, which can lead to stomach and intestinal disorders, nausea, a scratchy throat and irritation of nerves. To keep the amount of solanine ingested to a minimum, cut out any green areas liberally and do not use the water that potatoes have cooked in, since most of the solanine is leached out during the cooking process.

When potatoes are baked, fried, deep-fried and broiled, acrylamide can develop during the browning process at temperatures over 100°C. It is formed from sugar and protein. Acrylamide is presumed to have a carcinogenic and mutagenic effect.

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Not every potato is allowed to be marketed. The following quality criteria must be met:

* The potato must be whole, i.e., no parts may be missing and the tuber may not be damaged in any other way.

* It must be as clean as possible. It does not have to be washed, but loose soil and clumps of earth must be removed.

* The tuber must be healthy, i.e., free of disease and damage inside and out.

* It may not be soft, withered or wrinkled, but must have its natural firmness.

* Maximally 2% of another variety may be mixed in with the declared variety.

* The potato must be free of extrinsic smell and taste.

In Germany, only grade-1 and extra-grade goods may be sold. The only difference between these two grades is the range of tolerance for tubers that do not comply with the norm. The extra grade may contain 5% divergent goods, grade 1 maximally 8%. The grade, the variety and the cooking type must be declared on the packaging.

Particularly when buying loose potatoes, the customer has the opportunity to pick out the best-quality goods. Avoid buying potatoes with green areas. In addition, avoid tubers that have already sprouted. A slightly sweetish or mouldy smell indicates spoilage, so smell the package.

Early potatoes cannot be kept for too long and should be bought in only small amounts. All other potatoes remain fresh for a long period when stored in a cool, dry and dark place. Potatoes rot quickly in plastic bags, so it is better to put them in a linen, jute or net bag.

To store larger amounts in the cellar, it is recommended to put them in a wooden crate or on a slatted frame. Do not keep any apples or pears in the direct vicinity of potatoes. These give off ethylene and will cause the potatoes to ripen quickly and then rot.

Potatoes should never be kept in the refrigerator. At very low temperatures some of the starch is changed to sugar, and the potatoes take on a sweetish taste.

Presumed effect on health

The carotenoids in the tuber are presumed to reduce the risk of cancer and stroke and to prevent weak eyesight in old age. Phenolic acids have an antimicrobial effect, and, like protease inhibitors, they prevent cancer and protect the body from free radicals.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Approximately 40% of all potatoes are eaten in the form of processed products such as French fries, dumplings or chips.

Potatoes are used industrially in several ways, and no longer only as food. Potato starch is used to produce, among other things, biological synthetics and biodegradable packaging, as well as to make adhesives, alcohol and biotensides.

The great majority of potatoes processed industrially are used for food, however. French fries, potato chips, powder for dumplings, potato pancakes and mashed potatoes, soups and croquettes are made from the tubers.

In the home, potatoes should be washed and when necessary peeled prior to preparation. The thin and very tender skin of the early potatoes is particularly good to eat. Green spots and eyes should be removed, because they contain solanine. If peeled potatoes are not to be used immediately, they can be kept in water to prevent them turning brown. It is better to cover them with a moist cloth, however, to avoid the loss of nutrients.

Nutrients are lost during cooking as well. The most gentle way of preparing potatoes is to steam them over very little water in a covered pot.

Potatoes are used in different ways according to the cooking type. Waxy potatoes are good for potato salad, potato gratin, jacket potatoes and fried potatoes, in other words, for all dishes in which the potatoes should retain their structure. Predominantly waxy potatoes are good added to soups and stews, for boiled, jacket and fried potatoes, and for dishes with a sauce. Because of their consistency, mealy potatoes are good for making dumplings, potato pancakes, gnocchi, mashed potatoes and croquettes. They are also good for stews because they lend them a thickness. They are also suitable for baked potatoes.

Seasoning tip

According to the recipe, the following herbs and seasonings go particularly well with potatoes: thyme, rosemary, paprika, garlic, cayenne pepper, caraway, nutmeg, marjoram, tarragon and savory.


It is widely believed that raw potatoes are poisonous. This is not the case; rather, the starches contained in raw potatoes are more difficult to digest than those in cooked potatoes. If raw potatoes are eaten in large amounts this can lead to digestive problems. In addition, solanine is then ingested in greater amounts. This does not mean, however, that an occasional bite while you are preparing potatoes will hurt you.





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