What is Potato? Amusing Guide to All its Secrets

In this blog we’ll show you the characteristics of the potato, its main types, properties, history, main exporters and importers, how it is cultivated and some products made from this tuber. Don’t miss it!  

What is the potato and what are its characteristics?     

Scientific name  Solanum tuberosum
Common namePotato, papa or patata
Place of originPeru and Bolivia
HabitatCold and warm climates. Sandy loam, loamy or clayey soils with adequate ventilation and drainage.
DistributionAsia, Europe, Africa, and North America

Characteristics of the potato 

The potato plant comes from the Solanaceae family. The term “potato” is generally used to describe the tubers that grow in the soil that the plant propagates, the only part of the plant that is edible.

Their seeds are shaped into tomato-like berries that, like all green parts of the plant and the tuber sprouts, are slightly toxic to humans. The potato is one of the most important foods for mankind but is also essential as animal feed and as an industrial raw material.

Potatoes are long-lived, erect or climbing plants that can reach heights of more than 1 meter. The shoot axis is sometimes square. The plant forms branches that bear roots with tubers underground or just above the surface.


The alternately arranged leaves are divided into short branches. The leaf blade with an isolated final leaf at its tip is 10 to 30 cm long and 5 to 15 cm wide. The opposite or alternate leaves may be hairless or very hairy and often are also found in different shapes and sizes. The larger leaves are partially attached to the stem by a stalk and are 2 to 10 cm long and 1 to 6 cm wide; they are oval with a heart-shaped base and a pointed upper end. The smaller leaves are very oval or circular, measuring 2 to 15 mm in diameter, and have a base that is even more heart-shaped and a less prominent tip. The anterior leaves are densely hairy.


The flowers grow in the form of a hill. The flower stalks are 5 to 15 cm long and hairy. The other limbs of the flowers are also hairy and measure 3 to 35 mm long. The flowers are hermaphrodite, radially symmetrical with two leaves enveloping them. The petals can be white to blue in color and are 3.5 to 4 cm in diameter.

Fruit and seeds 

The fruit is a two-part, yellowish-green berry with many seeds that is not suitable for human consumption because of its content of solanine. This is why at the beginning we mentioned that the tuber is the only edible part of this crop.

Types of potato

Potatoes can be waxy, mostly waxy, mealy, and change variety according to their growing time.

Waxy potatoes keep their shape even after cooking. If you cut them open after cooking, a straight-cut surface that barely falls apart will show. They don’t burst during the cooking process. Particularly popular for potato salads,  a characteristic that is also demanded in gratins, boiled potatoes and French fries. Waxy potatoes include the well-known Linda variety and the oldest German potato variety, Sieglinde, as well as Cilena and Serafina.

Since mostly-waxy potatoes have a firm boiling point, they become medium-hard when cooked and can be mashed easily. They are very fine-grained and the skins burst very little during cooking. This type of cooking potato is a combination of firm and mealy tubers. The mostly waxy varieties can also be used to make au gratin, boiled potatoes, and French fries. They are also ideal for fritters, fries or potato croquettes and can also be used for stews and soups. A mostly waxy variety is the reddish-skinned Rosara, as well as Secura and Granola.

The skin of the mealy potatoes bursts after cooking and the potatoes crumble almost on their own, so they absorb sauces very well. These dry, fluffy potatoes have a high starch content of over 16%. They are ideal for making soups, but also gnocchi, croquettes, meatballs and mashed potatoes. Among the floury varieties are Adretta, Melina and Likaria.

The varieties of potatoes that depend on their growth time are known as early and ware potatoes.

Early potatoes are harvested before they are fully ripe and are sold immediately. Its skin can be easily removed. Very early or early potatoes are not suitable for storage (maximum two weeks in a cool, dark place). The first very early potatoes can be harvested from June onwards. Early potatoes are harvested from the field in July.

Among other things, the harvest time has a decisive effect on the storage life of ware potatoes. Tubers, which are described as semi-early to late, are particularly durable when stored correctly.

Semi-early potatoes can be harvested as early as August. Semi-late potatoes are ready to harvest as early as September and late potatoes are ripe in October and can be harvested.

In general, there are 44 types or varieties of potatoes:

  1. Linda
  2. Sieglinde
  3. La Bonnotte
  4. Finka
  5. Adretta
  6. Augusta
  7. Heideniere
  8. Nicola
  9. Annabelle
  10. La Ratte
  11. Goldmarie
  12. Glorietta
  13. Charlotte
  14. Allians
  15. Eersteling
  16. Aeggeblomme
  17. Lady Balfour
  18. Marabel
  19. Hela
  20. Bintje
  21. Almond potato
  22. Ackersegen
  23. Mayan Gold
  24. Red Emmalie
  25. Rosara
  26. Secura
  27. Granola
  28. Melina
  29. Likaria
  30. Heiderot
  31. Violetta
  32. Blue Anneliese
  33. Angeliter spruce cone
  34. Laura
  35. Bamberger Krumbeere
  36. Desiree
  37. Black Hungarian
  38. Odenwald Blue
  39. Pink Pineapple
  40. Rode Erstling
  41. Blue Swede
  42. Pink Gipsy
  43. Red Sonia
  44. Sarpo Mira

Today let’s focus on the first 6 as they are the main ones.


This is a semi-early variety of elongated, oval tubers and a smooth yellow peel. Its intense yellow flesh has an intense creamy flavor and is popular in boiled, roasted or gratin salads. In addition, this variety is characterized by its long shelf life.


An early variety with long, oval tubers and typically yellow skin and flesh. Due to its pleasantly strong flavor, this potato is very popular in salad dishes or as boiled potatoes.


This is a semi-early variety whose yellow, round bulbs are marked with deep eyes. The yellow flesh is extremely creamy and has a delicate flavor. These potatoes are suitable for making boiled potatoes or for salads.


This is a very early variety with oval tubers whose skin and flesh are typically yellow. Its strong aroma makes it a popular mashed or boiled potato.


Adretta is semi-early and has yellow, round tubers. Its yellow flesh has a strong, spicy flavor and is ideal for dumplings and potato dough dishes.


This is an early variety with rounded-oval, typically yellow tubers. Thanks to its mild and aromatic flavor, it is ideal for soups, meatballs, or gnocchi.

Properties and benefits of potatoes 

Nutritional profile of potatoes 

Take a look at the nutritional table of the potato per 100g, taken from Vegaffinity.

CompositionQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
MineralsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
VitaminsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
Vitamin A0.099.7%
Vitamin B10.119.2%
Vitamin B20.053.8%
Vitamin B31.70%
Vitamin B1200%
Vitamin C1718.9%

5 potato properties that you have to take advantage of 

Potatoes are low in calories 

Low-calorie potatoes? You have read that right. If you take a closer look at the nutritional values, the verdict is unbelievably good. What many people don’t know is that potatoes contain almost 80% water and, at 0.1% fat, are virtually fat-free.

Raw potatoes provide 68 calories for every 100 grams. Unlike rice (about 345 calories per 100 grams of raw rice) and pasta (362 calories per 100 grams), this healthy root vegetable is a real lightweight. If you want to save calories, potatoes are just right for you.

They keep you full for a long time 

Potatoes are great fillers. In a related study by the University of Sydney, the potato even took first place. Responsible for this is the contained starch, which is partly broken down in the mouth and thus signals the body early on that energy is on the way. This makes you feel full faster.

In addition, starches are complex carbohydrates that break down slowly. The more time your body has to deal with its breakdown, the longer you stay full. Potatoes contain 2.1 grams of dietary fiber per 100 grams, these are non-digestible food components that swell in the gut and increase satiety.

They provide vitamins 

Having 17 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams, potatoes contain more vitamin C than an apple. However, since the antioxidant is not heat-resistant, make sure not to let the potato overcook during preparation. In the process, many of the good nutrients are destroyed or eliminated. It is better to prepare them cooked than baked potatoes, or in a frying pan.

They make you happy 

After chocolate, pasta and banana, potato is also one of the happy foods. This is due to the good carbohydrates, of which potatoes provide about 15%.

When these carbohydrates are metabolized, insulin is released. The insulin hormone ensures better absorption of the amino acid tryptophan in the brain, which is necessary for the formation of the happiness hormone, serotonin.

Anyone who eats potatoes regularly is said to raise their serotonin levels permanently. A good mood boost is thus assured.

They protect your cells and keep you young 

You can give yourself a makeover by eating potatoes. In addition to vitamins and minerals, they also provide secondary plant substances. All three food components are among the so-called antioxidants. These act as protection for the cells by fighting harmful substances or so-called free radicals.

Antioxidants strengthen the immune system, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and ensure radiant skin. All you have to do to get them is to consume the potato regularly.

History and origin of the potato 

400 years ago, the potato was a foreign and exotic vegetable in Europe. It comes originally from the Andes in South America, where as early as 5,000 years ago, the Incas cultivated it for food.

In search of gold, the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Inca Empire in 1525 and discovered potatoes. They later took some tubers to Europe as travel supplies and as gifts for their king.

In Spain, people didn’t quite know what to do with their edible gift. However, its beautiful flowers made the potato a popular ornamental plant in the botanical gardens of princely and royal houses.

The Spanish king sent potatoes to the ailing pope as healing fruits to Rome. As they resembled tubers like the valuable truffles and grew underground, the Italians named them “Tartufo”.

The Pope sent some ‘Tartufo’ to the Netherlands, where they drew the interest of the famous botanist Clusius in 1588. He multiplied them and brought them to European gardens. In 1651 they were grown in the Grand Elector’s Berlin pleasure garden.

While farmers in southern and western European countries valued the potato as a satiating food from around 1640, its cultivation grew slowly in Germany. Farmers remained suspicious of foreign potatoes. The Prussian royal family recognized the value of the potato, but could not convince people of its usefulness because they were weakened by plague, wars, and poor harvests.

When Frederick the Great came to the throne in 1740, his people were starving. He decreed the cultivation of potatoes and gave away seed potatoes; his officials were to control the cultivation. He often personally traveled the country to verify the implementation of his laws and reforms. In 1770, another great famine hit Prussia after several bad harvests. Many people survived on tubers and the triumph of the potato could no longer be stopped.

Global industry of the potato 

Know the main potato exporters and importers in the world.   

Top potato exporters in the world in 2020 

In the following chart, you can see the top 10 countries that exported the most potatoes in 2020 according to FAO.

On the other hand, FAO provides also information on which countries have the highest export monetary volume, specifically in U.S. dollars in the year 2020. Let’s see what they are:

Top potato importers in the world in 2020

In 2020, $4.36 billion worth of potatoes were imported around the world. The top potato importers according to FAO for this year were the ones you will see in the chart below.

How is potato grown? 

There are a number of requirements to be met to grow this tuber. Below, we show you what they are:   


The ideal soil to plant potatoes is deep, well-drained soil. Heavy clay soil can be loosened with a little sand to avoid waterlogging. Since potatoes are heavy feeders, it is best to enrich the soil with mature compost or natural fertilizer.

As a general rule, about 4.5 liters of manure or compost per square meter is applied. If manure is not available, rock flour can also be used.

Potatoes need no longer be fertilized during the cultivation phase. The soil must be prepared at least 2 weeks before planting.


In Colombia, for example, potato is planted from mid-April onwards. In colder mountainous regions, it is best to wait until early to mid-May. The soil temperature should be between 7 and 9 degrees Celsius for potatoes to grow well.

How to prepare potatoes before planting: 

  1. You fill a wooden box or an empty egg carton with potting soil. Tip: sandy soil is particularly suitable.
  2. The so-called seed potatoes are placed in the soil, but only halfway.
  3. The box is placed in a bright, warm place with a temperature of about 15 degrees and the potatoes are left to propagate for 2 to 4 weeks.

Method to plant potato

Potatoes, whether germinated or not, are placed in furrows 10 to 20 cm deep with as many sprouts as possible pointing upwards. The distance of planting should be about 30 cm per tuber. The minimum distance from row to row is 70 cm.

Then water the tubers generously, keep them slightly moist and wait.

Ideally, only grow potatoes in the same bed every 4 years. Avoiding close proximity to tomatoes is important because, when potatoes have late blight, it spreads very easily to tomatoes.

Care for potatoes 

Once the potato plant has reached a height of 15 to 20 cm, it is possible to start mounding regularly. To do this, lift the soil to the right and left of the rows with a hoe, forming a sort of wall. This promotes the yield, which is 9 to 12 times the planted potatoes.

The piling has to be repeated every 2 to 3 weeks; using this as an opportunity to pull weeds is best.

Watering is also an important part of potato care. In the weeks after flowering, in particular, it is important to water the plants sufficiently early in the morning.

In general, keep the potatoes slightly moist, but not too moist. They do not need too much water and do not tolerate waterlogging.

Potato harvesting 

As a general rule, early varieties are harvested after 90 to 100 days. Late potatoes often mature only 150 days after planting. This is at the latest when the foliage dries out. At that time the potatoes can be removed in portions until frozen or harvested all at the same time.

If potatoes were planted in a sack, the whole sack can also be emptied onto an old blanket or tarpaulin and the tubers harvested.

A tip to harvest potatoes: the best way is to pick them on a sunny day and let them dry on the ground for a day before harvesting.

The beginning of potato flowering shows that the potatoes are now forming small tubers. These can already be harvested as baby potatoes, but they gain a lot of mass during flowering.

The fruits are located below the main stem in the soil and are easy to find by digging into the soil in a radius of about 50-60 cm around the plant. A digging fork or shovel is suitable for this. Under optimum conditions, you can expect to harvest about 10 kg of seed potatoes. Potatoes also form tubers without flowers.

Important note: do not eat tubers that were too close to the surface and have turned green. They contain toxic solanine.

Potato post-harvest 

Potatoes will feel at home in a newspaper. If potatoes are intended to be stored, they have to be harvested on a dry day and then left to dry in the sun for a few hours. Sort out the damaged tubers and store the remaining potatoes in a cool pantry or in the cellar.

The following guidelines are also important for proper storage:

  • Store potatoes fresh and dry.
  • Do not refrigerate.
  • The ideal storage temperature is at least 4 to a maximum of 12 degrees Celsius (the colder it gets, the more starch is converted into sugar, and the warmer it is, the more they start to germinate).
  • Potatoes should always be kept in the dark; they germinate or turn green when they come into contact with the light. If they turn green, they may be developing solanine, which is toxic.
  • Do not store with apples or pears, as these spoil potatoes more quickly.
  • Suitable storage containers are baskets, boxes or cloth bags to allow air circulation.
  • Cover potatoes in open baskets or boxes with newspaper.

Uses and products made from potatoes 

Potatoes are commonly consumed to prepare many dishes so it is most common for people to consume them in this form. However, there are other types of industrial products made from this tuber, thus it can be said that they are used fresh or processed. Some products made from potatoes have also been launched to the market, like the ones we show you below.

Industrial products made from potato 

French fries 

French fries, or just chips in Switzerland and formerly in eastern Austria Pommes-Chips, are found in Ireland and Great Britain as disc-shaped snacks. These consist of thin slices of potato, fried or baked. French fries are offered worldwide by different manufacturers in different flavors.

They are prepared by cutting raw potatoes into slices, soaking them in salted water, drying them and frying them in vegetable oil. After draining, they are salted and mixed with other spices to taste. As they are virtually completely dehydrated, they can be stored airtight for a longer period of time than traditional potatoes.

Potato pancakes 

Potato cakes or pancakes are a dish made from grated potatoes and other ingredients such as eggs and onions.

Potato pancakes are a traditional German, Bohemian and Austrian cuisine dish. The dish is also common in some Eastern European countries. Swiss Rösti is similar to potato pancakes but is prepared without flour and eggs.


Chuño potato starch is used as a starch (similar to cornstarch) in Andean cuisine.

Chuños are cold dehydrated potatoes. The technique dates back to pre-Columbian times and would make the potato last longer.

The term chuño derives from the name of the indigenous people of the Andes (Aymara, Quechua: ch’uñu = folds). Chuño is consumed in northern Argentina, the Bolivian highlands, northern Chile, southern Ecuador and Peru.

Potato starch 

Potato starch (also potato flour) is the starch extracted from potatoes. It consists mostly of the starches amylose and amylopectin in a ratio of about 1:4 – 1:5; it contains some fat and proteins. Its flour has a light white color given by its large amount of starch. When cooked, it has a neutral flavor, is very viscous, has good quality, a wide texture, and a slight tendency to create foam.

Potato bread 

Potato bread is usually bread whose dough has been mixed with grated potatoes (raw, boiled, or flaked). An example is Riewekooche, a specialty bread from Siegerland. Nuts or fried onions are often added to the potato bread to give the taste a rustic touch.


Potatoes are a valuable food that is widely consumed because of their many benefits, including the fact that it satisfies hunger efficiently and because of their many uses. We hope this blog has helped you learn more about the potato and that don’t hesitate to consume it in all its presentations and enjoy its benefits firsthand.