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Different Types of Potatoes in German Supermarkets- Explained
Like many other products, potatoes too come in many varieties. Today’s article is about the different potato varieties available in German Supermerkets, the difference between them and their usage.
Potatoes can be classified in two ways:
- Based on their starch content
- Based on their time of harvest
Potatoes classified based on the starch content:
Based on the starch content, potatoes can be broadly classified as Waxy or Starchy. Waxy Potatoes are low in starch, and starchy ones are high in starch content. Waxy potatoes are called festkochende Kartoffeln and starchy potatoes are called mehligkochende Kartoffeln. And, there are a few more varieties. But before we get to that let’s understand about starch in potatoes.
What is starch?
The dictionary meaning of starch is: Starch is an odourless, tasteless white substance occurring widely in plant tissue, obtained chiefly from cereals and potatoes.
Plants absorb minerals and water from the soil, and their leaves ( which are the kitchen of the plant) absorb carbon dioxide from the air to make food for the plant using energy from the sun. This food is glucose and starch.
Do all potatoes contain the same amount of starch?
No. The amount of starch in a potato depends on its variety and the amount of sunlight that it receives. The more sunlight the potato variety receives, the more food it makes and hence the higher starch it would have.
Also, the more sunlight it receives, the more moisture it loses.
Therefore, we can say that the starchy potatoes have less moisture content. When something has less moisture, it tends to turn powdery more easily than something that has more moisture. This explains why starchy potatoes feel a bit dry and become soft/powdery on cooking whereas the less starchy ones (i.e. waxy potatoes) retain their shape ( due to higher moisture content) and their skins do not burst on baking or boiling.
Now, with the basics clear, let us understand the different type of potatoes available in German Supermarkets, classified based on their starch content:
These are also waxy potatoes. They have a starch content of 14%. They retain their shape, don’t burst on baking/boiling and are ideal for making dishes in which you want to retain the shape of the potato ( as a whole or its pieces) . Some of the commonly made dishes with this variety of potato are potato salad, french fries, potato fry, thinly sliced potato chips etc.
Vorwiegend festkochende Kartoffeln
These potatoes contain more starch than waxy potatoes, about 15%. These potatoes lie somewhere between festkochende Kartoffeln ( waxy potatoes) and mehligkochende Kartoffeln ( startchy potatoes). Because they neither too firm nor too floury, they are also known as “potatoes for all occasions”. These potatoes are your ideal pick, if you want to buy a big bag of potatoes for the entire week and use them for making various dishes. When you boil these potatoes , you will observe that they sometimes stay slightly undercooked on the inside while their skin breaks and the potatos burst open. They find their usage in many dishes including fried potatoes, boiled potatoes, Gnocchi, etc.
Potatoes of this type contain the most starch, 16.5%. Their texture is coarse-grained, they are dry and mealy, and they crumble easily. Because of the nature of these potatoes, they are ideal for making mashed potatoes and potato soups, and to thicken sauces.
How to identify the potato varieties in German Supermarkets?
Potatoes usually comes in brownish yellow bags and and are labelled, but you can also identify them by the colour of the label. festkochende Kartoffeln come with a green label, vorwiegend festkochende Kartoffeln come with an orange/red label and mehligkochende Kartoffeln come with a blue label.
Potatoes classified based on the time of harvest:
Based on time time of harvest, potatoes available in Germany are categorized as Frühkartoffeln and Speisekartoffeln.
Frühkartoffeln can be translated to new potatoes or early potatoes. Any potato variety harvested before August 1st is called Frühkartoffel.
They contain the least amount of starch , around 12%. Since, during its growth, this potato doesn’t recieve a high amount of sunlight, the starch produced is lesser. This explains why this potato is waxy ( i.e less starchy) and had higher moisture content, making it firm and is therefore great for any dish, in which you want to serve the potato as a whole ( boiled or baked) , because this potato retains its shape and it’s skin doesnt burst while boiling/baking. It is also characterized by thin skin, which can be easily taken off using your fingers or rubbing between your hands.
You might have observed that in Germany, Asparagus served with potatoes and hollandaise sauce is a popular dish. Also, Grüne Soße is served with potatoes. In these dishes, potatoes are boiled and served as a whole. Frühkartoffeln ( new/early potatoes) are ideal for retaining their shape, which explains why these spring-summer dishes are paired with new/early potatoes (Frühkartoffeln). These potatoes are also great for potato salad, baked potatoes etc.
In Germany, May/June is the time when you get Frühkartoffel grown in Germany. Ones that are available early usually are imported from other countries.
Frühkartoffel have a shorter shelf life and must be consumed as soon as possible after purchase. When stored properly, it can be kept for up to 2 weeks before being consumed.
Any potato variety that is harvested after August 1st is called Speisekartoffeln. These potatoes have a longer shelf life than Frühkartoffel. When stored property, they can ke kept for months together before they get spoilt. These are labelled as festkochend, vorwiegend festkochend or mehligkochende based on the amount of starch contained.
In addition to these, you might have also observed the following varieties of potatoes:
Drillinge: These are small potatoes. You can check the label to know whether they are Frühkartoffeln or Speisekartoffeln OR whether they are festkochend or vorwiegend festkochend or Mehligkochend.
Potatoes with colorful flesh or colored skins: There are potatoes on the market whose skin or flesh has a special colour. They are generally offered as specialties. In addition to the color, you can distinguish them based on their shape, the starch content and the texture of the skin.
Some good practices:
- Buy seasonal: To live in harmony with nature, try to eat local and seasonal produce as much as possible. For example, in Germany, Frühkartoffeln are harvested in May and June. Make sure you bring them to your kitchen around that time.
- Buy from local markets: Look for a farmer’s market in your city and try to buy from there. You are sure to get fresh local produce when you buy from there. In addition, you can get muddy potatoes, which are actually better than the super clean ones that you get in supermarkets. The muddy cover protects the potato from light and slows its decay. You also get to buy them loose, reducing plastic use.
- Store property: If you buy from the supermarket, remove the plastic cover after bringing them home and let them breathe. Always keep potatoes in a cool place away from light. Don’t store them along with onions. The decay happens faster when both these moisture-laden veggies are kept together. When kept together, they produce an ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening process.
Before I end the article, here is a list of some popular Indian foods that are prepared using potatoes. I have matched the dishes with the right potatoes. If you live in Germany and cook indian food in your kitchen, you might find it useful. But please note that, there is really no hard and fast rule. I may put something in the list but you may prefer something else. So, please go ahead and experiment till you find what suits your taste.
|Indian Dish||Suitable Potato||Reason|
|Aalu Ka Parantha||mehligkochend||Doesn’t hold too much moisture and mashes well, so it can be stuffed easily and wouldn’t come out when rolling the dough.|
|Dum Aaloo||drillinge+ festkochend/Frühkartoffel||Small in size. Will retain its shape and not break easily when boiled/fried.|
|Potato Fry ( Non gravy)||festkochend||Will retain its shape and not break easily when fried.|
|Aalu Matar/ Rasedar Aalu/any gravy dish||vorwiegend festkochend||A medium texture works well, because the gravy dish needs some mashed potatoes and some that retain their shape.|
|Stuffing for samosa/ Masala Dosa||vorwiegend festkochend||A medium texture works well, because the stuffing/filling is always a rough mash of potatoes.|
|Tikki/Potato Cutlet||vorwiegend festkochend||Mehligkochend is good for a soft/fluffy inside and Festkochend is good for a crispy outside. The middle path of using vorwiegend festkochend works well.|
|Kofta ( mixed with Paneer)||mehligkochend||Will bind well and its low moisture will help with low oil absorption when frying.|
|vada Pav/ Dabeli/stuffing for sandwich/bread pakoda etc||vorwiegend festkochend||good for the rough texture needed for the stuffing.|
|Potato wedges/ French fries/ Cut pieces in chaat/bhelpuri||festkochend||Retains its shape and doesn’t become a mush.|
There are many more dishes, but I have listed a few that came to my mind. However, with my personal experience I can say that vorwiegend festkochend is more versatile than any other variety. If, like me, you also like buying a big bag of potatoes and use it for different dishes all through the week, go for vorwiegend festkochend. It works well for most of the everyday recipes.
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