A potato success story

written on 09/07/2020
by Jutta Triebe

It is known that the Germans have a mind of their own, but even so, the following is an anecdote of a special kind. The potato is a staple of traditional German food these days, but it was not always so.

As everyone knows, the potato originally came from South America through Spanish seafarers, where it was grown 8,000 years ago in the Andes. It was introduced to the Canary Islands, Spain and Italy, and then the rest of Europe (which can also be seen from the name). In the Canary Islands it is called papa, just like in its area of ​​origin, the Andes.

In Spain, patata developed from this, since it was often confused with sweet potatoes, the batata. In Italy one found great similarity with the truffles, which is why the name Taratouphli was created. Around 1800 it became Tartuffle or Artoffel in Germany - particularly in the south and middle of Germany. In areas bordering France, the French 'Pomme de terre' became the dominant word for potato.

Nonetheless  Erdbirnen, Töften, Schocken, Mäusle or Tuffeln, Ertüffel, Grumbeer or Grundbirne were and still are common names today.

Europe suffered badly from crop failures in crop cultivation and therefore from food shortages, since grain was the most important staple food. However, before the potato got through, obstacles such as prejudice and tradition had to be overcome.

So how could that be done?

In 1746, during a famine in Pomerania, Friedrich II of Prussia issued the first "potato order", an order to enforce potato cultivation, and commissioned pastors as "tuber preachers" to spread the correct way of cultivation and the benefits of potato cultivation. 

However, since he knew the unruly nature of his compatriots, he also had potatoes grown on his country estates with soldiers guarding them.

This provoked curiosity. The soldiers had instructions to say that they were there to protect the precious tuber and to prevent it from being stolen. Legend has it that the farmers then sneaked into the fields at night to steal the valuable seeds that they then used to cultivate in their fields. The soldiers were instructed to overlook this generously. Forbidden things are more interesting, even for adults!

In memory of the potato order, visitors often lay potatoes on the grave of Friedrich the Great in Sanssouci.


You need a recipe for the next barbecue? How about trying the bavarian potato salad.