Nutrition: Is the potato a vegetable? – Bavaria

New Year’s Eve was still young when the conversation at the table suddenly became heated. It all started innocently enough with steaming baked potatoes and the question of whether potatoes weren’t the best vegetable of all: cheap, nutritious, versatile. But the question alone sparked protests. A potato is not a real vegetable, objected the other side and gave a definition that was at least dubious: Vegetables are ideally green, crunchy and healthy, like broccoli or spinach. Potatoes can only be assigned to the category of “carbohydrate-containing filling side dish” like pasta or rice – which would also taste even better. At this point things got emotional.

A hasty cell phone search by uninvolved party guests could only barely settle the potato fight, because both sides found confirmation of their theses on the Internet. So the crucial question remained unanswered: Is the potato a vegetable or not?

A call to the Bavarian State Institute for Agriculture. There’s a man on the phone who needs to know. Alexander Mayerthaler researches the cultivation and processing of potatoes; among other things, he has examined the frying color of fries. “Not an easy question at all,” says the agricultural engineer about the K question. “From a nutritional point of view, the potato is theoretically a cereal product because of its high carbohydrate content. Botanically speaking, the potato is a nightshade plant like the tomato.” In everyday language, the tuber usually falls under the umbrella term vegetable, and Mayerthaler is quite relaxed about it. In 2003, the potato was even named “Vegetable of the Year,” and where else would you look for gratin ingredients in the supermarket if not in the vegetable department?

So much for the facts. But there’s more to the New Year’s Eve potato dispute, it’s about emotions and identity. Bavaria is the second largest growing region in Germany after Lower Saxony, there is a potato queen and lovable dialect creations: Grumbiere, Erdäpfel, Bumser. Without the vitamin-rich potato, many people would have gone hungry in the past and even picky children love fries, dumplings and mashed potatoes. The insult “you potato” is actually an insult. That’s why we hereby name the potato the best vegetable of all time.

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