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Potato blossoms (Solanum tuberosum)

Potato blossoms ( Solanum tuberosum )

Euasterids I
Order : Nightshade (Solanales)
Family : Nightshade family (Solanaceae)
Genre : Nightshade ( solanum )
Type : potato
Scientific name
Solanum tuberosum
Potatoes (variety Nicola )

The potato ( Solanum tuberosum ), in parts of Germany , Austria and Switzerland as Erdapfel , Jerusalem artichoke , Basic pear , Potaten is known (only in the plural), and other regional names a useful plant from the family of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). In common parlance, potatoes are usually used to denote the tubers that grow in the ground and with which the plant reproduces vegetatively .

The word potato (in the 17th century still Tartuffel ) derives from Tartufolo from, the Italian word for truffle, which in turn is derived from the Latin terrae tuber ( "Erdknolle"). The only distantly related sweet potato ( Ipomoea batatas ) got its name because of the similar use and appearance of the tubers.

The seeds are formed in tomato-like berries , which, like all green parts of the plant and the sprouts of the tuber, are slightly toxic to humans.

Around 376 million tons of potatoes are harvested worldwide every year . The potato is one of the most important foods in the world, but also animal feed and industrial raw materials.


Fruits of the potato plant

Appearance and leaf

Potatoes are perennial herbaceous plants that grow upright or climb and can reach heights of over 1 meter. The stem axis is sometimes square, sometimes even winged. The plant forms bulbous stolons underground or just above the surface .

The alternately arranged leaves are divided into short petioles and leaf blades. The imparipinnate leaf blade is 10 to 30 centimeters long and 5 to 15 centimeters wide. The opposite or alternating partial leaves are slightly to heavily hairy, often of different shapes and sizes. The larger partial leaves are partly stalked and are egg-shaped to oblong-egg-shaped with a length of 2 to 10 centimeters and a width of 1 to 6 centimeters with a somewhat heart-shaped base and a pointed to pointed upper end. The smaller partial leaves are broadly ovate to circular with a diameter of 2 to 15 millimeters and have a base that is more heart-shaped, a more blunt upper end. The partial leaves are hairy more or less densely downy.

Inflorescence and flower

The flowers are in umbel- shaped inflorescences . The inflorescence shafts are 5 to 15 inches long and hairy. The flower stalks are also hairy and 3 to 35 millimeters long.

The hermaphroditic flowers are radial symmetry and five-fold with a double flower envelope . The calyx is bell-shaped and five-lobed with a diameter of 1.5 to 2 centimeters. The calyx lobes are pointed to sharply pointed. The petals are white to blue, the crown is twice as long as the calyx and has a diameter of 3.5 to 4 centimeters. The yellow anthers are free, upright and porous.

Fruit and seeds

The fruit is a yellowish-green, two-chambered berry with many seeds, which is not suitable for human consumption due to the solanine it contains.


Lower part of a plant. The mother tuber is drawn dark.

The germination takes place epigeal. At the beginning, only the root system and the hypocotyl emerge from the seed coat, while the cotyledons initially remain in it. Only later do they also leave the seed coat, turn green and become the first organs of assimilation . The initially formed primary leaves are even simpler than the later pinnate secondary leaves.

Axillary buds sprout from the basal parts of the shoot and penetrate the ground, where they continue to grow horizontally ( plagiotropically ) like runners and become stolons. Instead of leaves, they have scale leaves. The ends of these runners thicken and transform into tubers. This is a primary growth in thickness . So there are sprouts . The tuber has only small, scale-like leaves that are, however, obsolete, so they fall off early. In the armpits of the leaf scars are the buds (called eyes here) from which the tuber sprouts again after the resting phase. The tuber is polar differentiated: the base, the end facing the mother plant, is called the umbilical end. It is the starting point of the runners, which perishes after the tuber has ripened. At the top, the terminal bud sits in a pit-like depression. When sprouting again, the terminal bud grows preferentially, which then forms an air sprout growing vertically (orthotropically).

Alkaloids , including solanine , are concentrated in the green parts of the potato plant and form a natural defense barrier against bacteria and insects, for example. For this reason, potatoes that have turned green when stored in the light are no longer edible.


The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium, a team of 29 research groups from 14 countries, began work on sequencing in January 2006. On July 10, 2011, the genome of the potato was published in Nature . It contains more than 39,000 protein- coding genes . The potato has 12 chromosomes . Some varieties are tetraploid and some are diploid . Sequencing the genome should enable breeders to improve yield, quality, nutritional value and disease resistance. The time to create new varieties (currently 10–12 years) should also be shortened. The most important discovery is over 800 disease resistance genes, each of which can potentially be used to combat important diseases such as gold nematodes and potato rot .


Vincent van Gogh: The Potato Eaters , 1885

Original origin

The potatoes cultivated today come from various local varieties that occur in the Andes from western Venezuela to Argentina and the island of Chiloé or the Chonos archipelago in southern Chile . The oldest known traces of wild potatoes were found on Chiloé; their age is estimated to be 13,000 years. The Chilean local varieties, however, presumably originate from the Peruvian Andean varieties ( Solanum tuberosum ssp. Andigenum (Juz. & Bukasov) Hawkes ), which probably emerged after hybridization with the wild species Solanum tarijense . This wild species can be found in Bolivia and Argentina. In Peru , which has long been regarded as the country of origin of the potato, there are more than 3,000 endemic potato varieties . Most can only be grown in the Peruvian Andes, because their geological and climatic requirements mean that they do not thrive in other parts of the world. The main difference between the Andean potato and the varieties cultivated in other growing areas is that it is adapted to different light conditions (day and night cycle).


Potato cultivation, around 1910, Russian Empire
Potato planting machine in the GDR

The potato was domesticated by Andean settlement cultures an estimated 8,000 years ago. In the Chibcha languages ​​it was called iouza or iomui ; for the Chono on Chiloé the plant was called aquina . In Quechua , the language of the Inca empire , the name papa prevailed, replacing the pre-Incan names among the peoples subjugated by the Incas and which has been preserved in Spanish throughout the South American , Caribbean and Canarian regions to this day. The Aymara spoken in today's Bolivia used the terms amka and choque; in the Atacama region was the potato chusli and Mapudungun in the Mapuche her name Poni (all names in Spanish spelling). The long-life and easy-to-transport chuño obtained from the potato is described as the food that was central to the development of the Andean region and which enabled the development of pre-Columbian Andean civilizations such as the Tiwanaku and the Inca.

When, how and by whom the potato came to Europe has not yet been precisely clarified. On its way from South America to Spain, the potato made a stopover in the (Spanish) Canary Islands . This is known because in November 1567 three barrels containing potatoes, oranges and green lemons were shipped from Gran Canaria to Antwerp, and in 1574 two barrels with potatoes were shipped from Tenerife via Gran Canaria to Rouen. Assuming that it took at least five years to get enough potatoes to become an export item, the naturalization of the plant in the Canary Islands took place in 1562 at the latest.

The earliest evidence of the potato in Spain is found in the books of the Hospital de la Sangre in Seville, which bought potatoes in 1573. It is assumed that the potato reached Spain at the earliest in 1564/65 and at the latest in 1570, as otherwise the botanist Clusius , who traveled the country in 1564 in search of new plants, would have noticed them. The potato made its way to Italy from Spain and then slowly spread to mainland Europe.

The potato is said to have reached the British Isles without going through Spain. Who brought the potato there is not clear. In any case, it wasn't Francis Drake , probably neither Walter Raleigh or Thomas Harriot , names that are mentioned again and again in this context. The potato is first documented in England in the catalog of plants published in London in 1596, which the botanist John Gerard grew in his garden in Holborn. In the same year Caspar Bauhin gave the potato the scientific name Solanum tuberosum .

The potato was often imported to Europe as a purely ornamental plant because of its beautiful flowers and lush foliage and was taken up as a rare plant in botanical gardens . In the middle of the 17th century it appeared in the Netherlands , Italy and Burgundy .

In Germany the first potatoes are said to have been made during the reign of Ferdinand III. 1647 in Pilgramsreuth (Rehau) , Upper Franconia . In the Seitenstetten Abbey in Lower Austria, the Benedictine Abbot Caspar Plautz wrote a cookbook with potato recipes, which was published in Linz in 1621. Margrave Christian Ernst (Brandenburg-Bayreuth) is also the first German prince to introduce potato cultivation in his country ; however, the farmers were not willing to implement it. Large-scale cultivation began in Lancashire in 1684 , Saxony in 1716 , Scotland in 1728 , Prussia in 1738 and France in 1783 .

Potato monument near Braunlage

A peculiarity of agriculture is reported: “ According to tradition, the potato was first distributed in the northern regions of our Braunschweig region by the troops returning from the Netherlands in 1748 by bringing them in their knapsacks as a novelty and encouraging their relatives to cultivate them . Before Wendeburg and Zweidorf the same took place in 1748. - In the city of Braunschweig, tufa were first mentioned in 1753 as a garden fruit . ”At the suggestion of Hofjägermeister Georg von Langen and with the ducal approval of November 3, 1747, the Potato cultivation near Braunlage in the Harz Mountains. Unfortunately, the desired success did not materialize and in 1751 the farmers there refused to continue growing. After all, in the forest (Brandhai forest) south of Braunlage, the two-meter-high potato monument, an upright stone with an inscription plaque, reminds of this innovation. The inscription reads: “The first attempts to grow potatoes were made here in 1748. The name 'potato hedge' was a reminder of this in 1885 ” .

Outside of tropical , arctic and sub-arctic climates , the potato is grown worldwide today. After their culture prevailed in Europe and the potato became a staple food, Europeans brought them with them wherever they later established themselves. In retail today are in addition to the native potatoes also those from Sicily , from the Canary Islands , from Egypt offered or from South Africa. On Tenerife or Madeira , potatoes grow under palm trees and next to banana gardens . Two harvests a year are possible there, and exports are primarily to the countries of the European Union . For reasons of yield, potatoes are rarely grown up to an altitude of 2,000 meters in the Alpine region . One of these cultivation islands is the Lungau ( Austria ), where various varieties are grown on 150 hectares under the name Lungauer Eachtling .


The starch of the transgenic potato variety Amflora consists almost exclusively of amylopectin by switching off the amylose synthesis with antisense RNA and is therefore suitable for industrial applications. Amflora was approved for cultivation in March 2010, but the approval has since been withdrawn. At the same time, the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) used the TILLING process to cultivate a variety of potatoes that only contains amylopectin as starch. This process does not involve genetic engineering, so it is a conventional potato.

Potato varieties that are resistant to late blight are of particular importance . Initially, the Fortuna potato was developed, but as a transgenic plant it contains foreign DNA and was therefore unable to establish itself. As a result, potatoes were made into which resistance genes from wild potatoes were inserted. They do not contain any foreign genes and are called cisgenic potatoes. Since they only contain genes from the potato, outcrossing of transgenes to other potato plants is impossible. So coexistence is not a problem. These cisgenic potatoes can be equated with potato varieties into which resistance genes have been introduced through conventional breeding . This includes, for example, the Bionica potato variety, which was developed for organic farming . The cisgenic potatoes are not approved for cultivation in Europe because they are classified as GMOs . This restriction on the cultivation of cisgenic potatoes is currently very controversial. In 2017, the cisgenic Innate® potato (2nd generation) was approved for cultivation and consumption in the USA. In addition to being resistant to late blight, this potato is less prone to pressure marks and deterioration in quality when stored in the cold. In addition, it contains less asparagine , so that less toxic acrylamide is formed when heated strongly . All of these four new properties were obtained without the introduction of foreign DNA.

As of August 2017, 47 different genetically modified potatoes were approved for cultivation and sale worldwide. Cultivation is also very modest in the USA, with less than 0.01% of the total area of ​​transgenic cultivation.


Solanum tuberosum is classified within the genus of nightshade ( Solanum ) in the section Petota . This section includes an estimated 190 species, many of which are wild (also bulbous). In addition, there is a large number of South American native varieties, some of which are included in Solanum tuberosum , but on the other hand are also divided into up to 21 separate species. The closest wild relatives of the cultivated potato are summarized in the Solanum brevicaule complex. On the basis of phylogenetic studies, the origin of the South American local varieties and thus also the cultivated potato could be traced back to the South Peruvian species Solanum bukasovii from the Solanum brevicaule complex. The results of this investigation refuted the thesis that cultivated potatoes have several origins.

Potato cultivation

Economical meaning

80% of the world potato harvest in 2018 was produced by 20 countries
World harvest of potatoes 1970–2017, source FAOSTAT

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, world production was 368.2 million tons of potatoes in 2018. The total area under cultivation was 17.6 million hectares. The average yield was 20.9 t / ha. The following table gives an overview of the 20 most important potato-growing countries, which produced a total of 79.8% of the global total.

Largest potato producers (2018)
rank country Quantity
(in t )
  rank country Quantity
(in t)
1 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 90.259.155 11 BelarusBelarus Belarus 5,865,123
2 IndiaIndia India 48,529,000 12 CanadaCanada Canada 5,790,838
3 UkraineUkraine Ukraine 22,503,970 13 IranIran Iran 5,321,188
4th RussiaRussia Russia 22,394,960 14th PeruPeru Peru 5,121,110
5 United StatesUnited States United States 20,607,342 15th United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 5,028,000
6th BangladeshBangladesh Bangladesh 9,744,412 16 EgyptEgypt Egypt 4,896,476
7th GermanyGermany Germany 8,920,800 17th AlgeriaAlgeria Algeria 4,653,322
8th FranceFrance France 7,870,973 18th PakistanPakistan Pakistan 4,591,776
9 PolandPoland Poland 7,478,184 19th TurkeyTurkey Turkey 4,550,000
10 NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 6,029,734 20th KazakhstanKazakhstan Kazakhstan 3,806,992
world 368.168.919

For comparison: In 2018, 697,931 t were harvested in Austria and 417,156 t in Switzerland.

The following table gives an overview of the ten most important exporting countries of potatoes by value in euros.

Largest potato exporters (2017)
rank country Value
(in million euros)
1 NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 705
2 FranceFrance France 528
3 GermanyGermany Germany 343
4th China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 249
5 EgyptEgypt Egypt 241
6th United StatesUnited States United States 212
7th CanadaCanada Canada 211
8th BelgiumBelgium Belgium 186
9 IranIran Iran 128
10 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 112
world 3,837

Area, yield and trade in Germany

In Germany , the area under cultivation decreased sharply until 2018. According to the FAO, the area under cultivation was 252,200 ha in 2018 (275,000 ha in 2007). The average yield per hectare was 35.4 t / ha (2009: 44.3 t / ha). The harvest has been between 10 and 11 million t for years.

Germany is also the most important importing country for new potatoes, which come mainly from France , Italy and Egypt . The per capita consumption there was 55.1 kg in 2012/2013. Hans-Jürgen Teuteberg tried to calculate the per capita consumption of food, including potatoes, in Germany since the beginning of industrialization .

Growing conditions

Potato field in Maine , USA
Potato field from Gut Böckel in Rödinghausen

Under good cultivation conditions, between 25 and 35 tons can be harvested from one hectare of arable land in subtropical areas, in the tropical climate the harvests reach 15 to 25 tons per hectare.

For cultivated potatoes, the optimal temperature conditions are between 18 and 20 ° C with a daily average . A maximum night-time temperature of 15 ° C is required to promote tuber formation, and a soil temperature of 15 to 18 ° C is optimal for tuber growth. If the temperatures drop below 10 or rise above 30 ° C, the plant almost stops growing.

Cultivated potatoes are divided into early (90 to 120 days), medium (120 to 150 days) and late (150 to 180 days) varieties. Planting the seed potatoes requires a soil temperature of at least 8 ° C; the soil temperature may be lower if the planting material has been pre-germinated or at least brought into germination mood or if the tubers are placed under foil. In order to bring the seed potatoes into the germination mood, storage for two to three weeks at temperatures around 10 ° C or three to four days at temperatures around 20 ° C is required. If the seed potatoes are stored and exposed to light for longer than these periods of time, they will germinate . By placing pre-sprouted potatoes or at least brought into the sprouting mood - in the case of pre-sprouted potatoes, a sprout length of 15 to 20 mm is desirable - in addition to early emergence and row closure through age resistance, a lower risk of bacterial or fungal plant diseases can be ensured. If the temperature is too cold for planting, the growing time until harvest can be extended considerably. A long day of 15 to 17 hours is necessary for the successful cultivation of early potato varieties; late-ripening varieties achieve good harvests under both short-day and long-day conditions. See also photoperiodism .

To prevent the spread of diseases and pests, it is recommended that a field be planted with potatoes only every three years. The pH of the soil should be between 5 and 6, the need for nutrients is 80 to 120 kg nitrogen per hectare, 50 to 80 kg phosphorus per hectare and 125 to 160 kg potassium per hectare. The best yield for varieties with a ripening period of 120 to 150 days is achieved with a water volume of 500 to 700 mm of annual rainfall. In Germany, the yields are usually 30 to 50 tons per hectare of cultivated area. With individual starch potato varieties, more than 80 tonnes of yield per hectare are reported with the use of targeted irrigation.

The cultivation of potatoes is fundamentally problematic with regard to the increased risk of soil erosion by water.


Potato field in Nakkila (Finland)
Potato ridger

The preparation of the field for the cultivation of potatoes usually begins with a turning basic tillage by plowing either in the previous autumn in order to take advantage of the frost bake, especially in heavy soils , or in spring. In the case of autumn plowing, the soil is loosened again in spring using non-turning implements to a depth of around 15 cm. The planting bed should be separated, fine-crumbly, free of clods and dry in order to facilitate the laying process of the seed potatoes, the construction of the ridge, any mechanical care measures and the harvest. The soil should allow good air, water and heat exchange. Flat, large and contiguous areas with fine, sandy soils without stones are particularly suitable for growing potatoes. In addition, areas with lower humidity , e.g. B. in drier regions or at higher altitudes because of the reduced risk of disease particularly interesting for potato cultivation. In all systems, the potatoes are grown in dams, which meets the previously mentioned demands on the soil. The plant density and arrangement in the field (row and plant spacing) depend on the purpose of use: Larger stand densities are typical for the production of seedlings and result in smaller tubers. When potatoes are grown for food, the stand densities are lower and the tubers larger. For example, the aim is to grow between 40,000 and 45,000 plants per hectare for food purposes, but around 60,000 plants per hectare for the production of seed potatoes.

The seed potatoes are planted using special planters , which plant the tubers at a depth of 8 to 10 cm and then close the soil again in a ridge shape. The distance between the rows is between 60 and 90 cm; With regard to the track and tire widths of the machines used, a row spacing of 75 cm is common in Germany. The distance between the plants in the row varies between 25 and 40 cm depending on the desired stand density.

Weed control can be carried out by mechanical control measures, thermal processes , the use of herbicides or by combinations of these control methods . Weed control with herbicides is common in conventional farming, whereas mechanical or thermal methods are used in organic farming . The mechanical weed control can be operated with the following devices: Hackgerät with goosefoot, multiple unit rolling hoe rating, power harrow , Dammformer, Hiller, dam harrow tines or usual. The aim of mechanical control is that the germinating weeds are loosened from the soil and thereby wither in the sun. This measure must be repeated as often as necessary when weeds emerge, until the potato plants completely cover the ground.

At the end of the growing season, the herb dies. It is also widespread killed when the tubers are large enough to interrupt growth when the tubers are optimal, to make the tubers ready for harvest by loosening the tubers from the stolons and consolidating the pods, and to prevent disease from infecting the tubers. There are various methods for this ripening treatment , which can depend on the cultivation system. This includes the mechanical destruction of the above-ground parts of the plant by flailing or the use of herbicides ( siccation ).

Cultivation worldwide

Chuños , potatoes that are preserved freeze-dried in the ground using traditional methods in Peru and Bolivia
Potato harvest in Indonesia

Thanks to the great adaptability of the potato, it is now grown practically all over the world. While cultivation in developed countries has tended to decline over the past two decades, an increase has been observed in third world countries, most notably in Asia. This increase is due both to the expansion of the cultivation area and to the simple inclusion of the potato in existing cultivation systems: The development of early-ripening varieties with a vegetation period of 80 to 100 days allows e.g. B. in India to make ideal use of the break between rice and wheat cultivation.

Cultivation techniques in the Third World are very different, depending on the growth and market conditions. In the Andes, Central Africa and the Himalayas, potatoes are mainly hand-grown by small subsistence farms. Otherwise, cultivation has been heavily mechanized in most regions.

Cultivation example Africa - Ethiopia

In Ethiopia , potatoes are mainly grown in rotation and mixed cultivation (multicropping) systems during the great rainy season. The seedbed preparation is carried out before the rainy season, usually one to two months before planting. In many regions this cultivation is still connected with manual labor or with the help of oxen. Whole tubers are mainly used as seedlings, as they are less susceptible to disease and chemical pesticides are rarely used. Weed control is also mainly done by hand.

Cultivation example Eurasia - India

The majority of farms in India are small family businesses. Potato production takes place during the monsoons from July to September, as well as in winter, but only with irrigation. Depending on the region, rotations of corn-potato-wheat or rice or jute are common.

Cultivation example America - Peru

Peru lies in the region of origin of the potato and there are still many wild varieties today. Potatoes have been grown for around 7,000 years, and for a long time they represented the main food of the people. The majority of the potato harvest is produced by small farmers with less than 3 hectares of cultivated land. Basically, potato cultivation is divided into two cycles: “early planting” and “large planting”. The two cycles are of different importance depending on the area. In the crop rotation, potatoes are usually followed by other South American root or tuber crops and then quinoa or barley.

The International Year of the Potato 2008

Following a declaration by the UN General Assembly of November 2005, the year 2008 was introduced by the United Nations on October 18, 2007 in New York as the International Year of the Potato .

The mission of the International Year of the Potato is to raise awareness of the importance of the potato as food in developing countries , to promote research and development of potato-based systems and thus to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals . The potato has significant potential to help combat malnutrition.

On the occasion of the year of the potato, Swiss Post also issued a special postage stamp worth 85 cents on March 4, 2008.

Average composition

The composition of potatoes naturally fluctuates, both depending on the environmental conditions (soil, climate) and the cultivation technique (fertilization, plant protection). The physiological calorific value is 297 kJ (70 kcal) per 100 g of edible portion.

Details per 100 g of edible portion:

Components salary
water ≈78 g
carbohydrates ≈16 g
Fiber 2.1 g
Egg whites 2.0 g
Minerals ≈1.5 g
Fats 0.1 g
Minerals salary
potassium 420 mg
phosphorus 50 mg
magnesium 20 mg
Calcium 6 mg
sodium 3 mg
iron 435 µg
zinc 345 µg
manganese 145 µg
copper 90 µg
selenium 2 µg
Vitamins salary
vitamin C 17 mg
Vitamin B 3 1.2 mg
Vitamin B 5 400 µg
Vitamin B 6 305 µg
Vitamin B 1 110 µg
Vitamin E. 55 µg
Vitamin B 2 45 µg
Folic acid 20 µg
Vitamin A 1 0.9 µg
carbohydrates salary
Strength a ≈15 g
Sucrose 0.30 g
glucose 0.24 g
Fructose 0.17 g
aAverage for table potatoes (floury ≈16.5 g / 100 g; waxy ≈14 g / 100 g). - Industrial potatoes contain> 15 g / 100 g

About 140 chemical compounds can be found in raw, boiled, or dehydrated potatoes that are responsible for the taste and smell of the tuber. The most important are 1-octen-3-ol , ( E ) -2-octenol , ( E ) -2-octanal and geraniol as well as 2-isopropyl-3-methoxypyrazine , which creates the "earthy" note in smell and taste. Pyrazine derivatives are what give baked potatoes its flavor.

Potatoes contain protein in small quantities, but of high quality. Of all vegetable protein suppliers, it has the highest proportion of usable protein, the potato protein has a high biological value .

Alkaloids in potatoes

The green part of potatoes contains solanine.

Potato peels and green potatoes contain several times more alkaloids than normal peeled potatoes , above all the solanine typical of the nightshade genus . It is found in all parts of a potato plant. Potatoes stored in daylight turn green, which is a sign of increased solanine content. For this reason, potato peels, green potatoes, and potato sprouts should not be used for diet or feeding. In order to keep the intake of glycoalacoids such as solanine as low as possible, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) also advised consumers in 2018 that they should only eat fresh and undamaged potatoes with their skin on. Small children should generally not eat unpeeled potatoes. In addition, the institute's publication recommends that the cooking water from potatoes should not be reused and that the frying fat for potato products should be regularly replaced. If potato dishes have a bitter taste, they should not be consumed.

Structural formula of solanine

The solanine content of older potato varieties was much higher than it is today. Contemporary potato varieties have a solanine content of 3 to 7 mg / 100 g, but mainly in the skin. The dose of 200 mg solanine, at which the first symptoms of intoxication can occur in adults, corresponds to an intake of three to seven kilograms of unpeeled raw potatoes. Storage in the dark, peeling and preparation reduce or break down the solanine content. The available potato varieties do not have any harmful glycoalkaloid content under the usual conditions.

In addition to solanine, green tubers and seedlings also contain chaconin and leptins . Since there are no known studies of the effects of these substances on the organism of small children and weakened people, this group of people should be prevented from eating even small amounts of green potatoes.

Potato varieties

Potato atlanta
Different types of potatoes on a market

There are around 7000 varieties of potato worldwide . These varieties have been bred for their many different uses and the geographically far apart growing areas. In addition, other varieties are constantly being developed. The world's largest gene database with around 100 wild and 3800 potato varieties traditionally cultivated in the Andes is maintained by the International Potato Institute based in Lima , Peru .

The different varieties can be differentiated according to the ripening period and the intended use:

Ripening time

The ripening time criterion is very important for the producer. The choice of variety depends on the climatic conditions and the duration of the growing season . A distinction is made between the following categories:

  • The early ripe potato varieties ( early potatoes ) have a vegetation period of 90 to 110 days. They can usually be harvested in June / July (if the tubers were planted in March / April). In areas that are frost-free earlier, it is even possible to harvest earlier. So that the early-ripe potato can be harvested in June / July, the plant for the tubers must be formed early and the roots must grow quickly. This not only reduces the yield, but also the starch storage in the tubers, as this takes place with a delay to the volume growth.
Examples: Agata , Amandine, Birte Derby, Frühgold , Lady Christl, Lady Felicia
  • The mid-ripe potato varieties have a vegetation period of 120 to 140 days.
Examples: Gourmandine, Bintje , Blaue St. Galler , Victoria, Ditta , La Ratte , Nicola , Urgenta, Pamela, Naturella, Désirée, Agria , Eden, Allians
  • The mid-early-late potato varieties have a vegetation period of 140 to 160 days.
Examples: Ackersegen , Atlanta, Lady Jo, Lady Claire, Innovator , Lady Rosetta, Marlen, Fontane , Hermes, Eba, Markies, Panda


Enamel potato pail, Netherlands

Table potatoes are differentiated according to their cooking properties. According to the Commercial Class Ordinance, all potatoes sold in the trade (also in bulk) must be classified according to these cooking properties. In the EU, table potatoes are divided into four cooking types, which are identified with the letters A to D and combinations thereof. German potatoes are also marked with a colored stripe on the packaging.

Further distinguishing criteria

Potatoes with purple flesh color (variety Salad Blue)
Pink potatoes (variety Rote Emmalie)

In Germany, potato varieties are registered with the Bundessortenamt in Hanover and are subject to variety protection for thirty years . This means that license fees may be payable to the respective proprietor of the property rights in the case of cultivation. This can lead to conflicts with suppliers, for example if established varieties are withdrawn from the market after the protection period has expired - the free sale of seeds is no longer permitted (see potato variety Linda ). However, propagation from own stocks and sale for consumption are permitted. As a result, many old potato varieties are only available in small quantities or are no longer available at all.

In Switzerland, the further development of the potato is carried out by the Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil (ACW) and Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon (ART) research stations. The current list of varieties includes 31 varieties.

Potato Diseases and Pests

Potatoes can be damaged by various causes. These include diseases caused by fungi , bacteria or viruses . Damage can also be caused by insects , woodlice , roundworms or rodents .

Potato plant infested by the Colorado
potato beetle larvae
Severe feeding damage and crop failure caused by voles (water voles)

Potato diseases

Fungal diseases of the potato plant

Potato bacterial diseases

Potato viral diseases




Roundworms (Nematoda)

Rodents (Rodentia)


Potato storage on the slopes of the Low Tatras near the village of Liptovská Teplička
Potatoes with strongly developed dark sprouts. The aim of potato storage is to maintain the dormancy of the potatoes for as long as possible.

So that potatoes are available for processing and consumption all year round, goods from growing areas with different climatic conditions are used on the one hand, but the local harvest is also stored to a significant extent on the other. Since sprouting the potatoes in storage increases the metabolism in the tubers and leads to a change in the ingredients, the main goal is to suppress sprouting. In addition, an infection with fungi or bacteria or pest infestation should be prevented. The storage losses based on the weight can be 4% at best, but in the event of spoilage they can also account for the entire harvest. Even under the most favorable conditions, the ongoing metabolism in the potato tubers leads to a gradual breakdown of starch into sugar and ultimately carbon dioxide.

With professional storage, the potatoes are initially cooled down gradually (at most one to two ° C per day) and then dried. The tubers have the lowest metabolism at a storage temperature of 3 ° C. However, such low temperatures cause increased sugar production, which is unfavorable for the use of the tubers for food production. Table potatoes are therefore stored in dark, well-ventilated storage areas at 5 ° C to 10 ° C and around 90% humidity . Potatoes from conventional agriculture are also widely treated with sprout inhibitors (especially chlorpropham ) and fungicides to support storage goals , which is indicated by the addition "treated after harvest" on the label. This is not allowed for goods that are to be offered on the market in accordance with the EU organic regulation or stricter criteria. Seed potatoes, on the other hand, are stored at temperatures of 2 to 3 ° C or 6 to 7 ° C, depending on the variety.

Excessive storage temperatures and incidence of light promote the germination and “greening” of the tubers and thus the formation of toxic solanine . If stored too dry, the water-containing tubers wither, and it is also important to avoid the formation of mold due to moisture build-up . Furthermore, a low dump height prevents harmful pressure points. Storage together with fruit (such as apples) is not recommended.

Due to the requirements for storage temperature and humidity, proper potato storage often requires artificial ventilation, heating or cooling. Storage is therefore costly.


Potato wedges

Potatoes are used as food and feed as well as for the production of starch and alcohol . In Germany, almost 60% of the potato harvest is used directly as food. About 30% of the potato harvest is used for the production of starch and about 4% for the production of ethanol. Another 6% serve as seeds and just 1.2% as animal feed.

Table potatoes

Since the end of the Second World War , fewer and fewer potatoes have been consumed in Germany. Consumption has more than halved. The food industry is increasingly bringing ready meals made from potatoes to the market. The consumption of potato chips , french fries , croquettes , ready-made hash browns and mashed potatoes made from dried flakes is increasing . As a side dish, however, alternatives such as rice and pasta are often chosen, which are even easier to prepare.

The average potato consumption per inhabitant in Germany decreased from 70 kg in 2000 to 57 kg in 2010.

In Germany, potatoes have been placed on the market since 1956 according to the so-called Berlin agreements . These provisions were last updated in 2010. Among other things, they define standardized sizing and other quality features.

Potatoes have a high glycemic index . A Canadian study showed that children still consume up to 40% fewer calories when a meal is served as a side dish, and that glucose and insulin levels are lower after meals when the side dish is French fries (respectively compared to pasta and rice dishes).

Feed potatoes

Since the 19th century, pigs have rarely been driven into the forest or pasture in Central Europe , but kept in stables. The acorns and other fodder from the forest, which were once important for the nutrition of the pigs , were initially mainly replaced by the cheaper potatoes (with the exception of the pigs for the production of specialties such as the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota). In the last few decades more and more fattening products have been purchased on the world market . Domestically grown potatoes are in a difficult position against the low world market prices of soy , which is mostly produced in developing countries . Since feeding potatoes is more complex than feeding grain, it became meaningless in Germany between 1970 and 1992.

Starch potatoes

Potatoes are one of the starch plants that have organs with a high content of starch . Starch is an important part of human and animal nutrition. In addition, the starch can be used as a renewable raw material both materially and energetically.

In 2008, around 1.53 million tons (Europe: 9.4 million tons) of starch were produced in Germany. 42% of the starch produced came from the potato. In Europe, the share of potatoes in starch production is lower at 16% or 1.5 million tons.

Part of the starch is obtained in purified form and used in the food industry and for material purposes. Depending on the type, starch consists of branched amylopectin and linear (unbranched) amylose in different proportions . Since the industry mainly needs amylopectin, starch plants with the highest possible amylopectin content are preferred. In Germany, the paper and corrugated board industry annually uses around 50,000 to 60,000 tons of native potato starch with a high amylopectin content, while more than 250,000 tons are used for the production of modified starches (especially dextrins , starch esters and ethers ). Around 50% of these modifications are used as paper starch in the paper industry, and another 17% are used in the production of cardboard and adhesives. The remaining third is used by the food industry, mainly for fruit preparations and dairy products.

Folk medicine

In folk medicine, potato juice is used internally for stomach problems and externally for injuries or ulcers.

Regional names

There are numerous regional names for the potato.

  • The potato type is predominantly North German and partly Central German. This includes language history and Low German Tüfte or Tüffel .
  • In the southeast of the German-speaking area (Austria, Bavaria, parts of Thuringia and Saxony) and on the Lower Rhine, the Erdapfel type applies . Sound variants belonging to this are Ärpel, Erpfel and around Cologne Äädappel .
    • Linguistically, this type is followed by the herd apple type in the very south of the German-speaking area (Switzerland, South Baden, Upper Alsace) ; Herd is an Alemannic word for “earth, earth”. The dialectic realizations are Härdöpfel, Hördöpfel, Häärpfel, Häärpfel .
  • In the southwest of the German-speaking area (from Switzerland [outdated] and Vorarlberg via Alsace, Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland to Luxembourg), but also in Burgenland, the basic pear type prevails . The associated dialect words are Gromper, Grombiera, Grumbeer (e), Grumbiere, Grundbirn, Krumbeer, Krumbiir, Krumper .
    • Linguistically, the types Erdbirne (dialect Aper, Arber, Arbiern, Erbir, Erdbirn, Erper, among others in Saxony and Württemberg), Herdbirne (with hearth “Earth, Earth”; dialect Häppere, Häppiir, Ä (r) pire, Härperu) in parts of Switzerland) and Bodenbirne (in Allgäu).
  • Locally in Switzerland (especially Schwyz and Uri) one says Gum (m) el or in the diminutive form Gum (m) eli .
  • Scattered can be found in Spanish patata returning Bodaddn and ( East Frankish ) Bodaggn (Potacke) .
  • Bramburi in the north of Lower Austria comes from the Czech brambor, which in turn goes back to the state name "Brandenburg".
  • More dialect words from different origins are Flezbirn, Grübling, Eachtling (Salzburger Lungau ), tuber / Knulle (in southeastern Brandenburg ), pasta ( Vorpommern ), Bulwe, boxes, Pipper (room Kleve ), Schuck and Schrumpern (around Daun and Gerolstein).

The word Grumbier has also spread in the South Slavic languages: in Serbo-Croatian the potato is called Krumpir. Kumpir is also a Turkish dish that mostly consists of large potatoes.

In Russian and Polish, on the other hand, “potato” was adopted as a foreign word, although the term ziemniak (earthling) is also common in Poland . The Czech brambor , on the other hand, is derived from Braniborsko , Czech for Brandenburg , from where the potato was once imported to Bohemia .

See also


Web links

Commons : Potato ( Solanum tuberosum )  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: cookbook, dishes with potatoes  - learning and teaching materials
Wiktionary: Potato  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on July 20, 2007 .