Who Eats The Most Potatoes?

Germans have a reputation for being big on potatoes. But is it deserved? We shall find out…

As for me, personally, I can take them or leave them. Probably my least favourite are boiled potatoes of the “mealy” kind, which taste of nothing and clog up your windpipe. Floury potatoes are only ever palatable with lashings of butter and/or cheese, preferably mashed. Potato crisps, chips, fries, etc … I will eat them if they’re put in front of me, but it’s not something I’d ever crave.

This is the REAL thing

This is the REAL thing. Except for being boil-in-the-bag, that is… ;-)

However ambivalent I might feel about spuds and potato products in general, I do have one big weaknesses: Kartoffelknödel. For those unfamiliar with them, they are the big brother of the Italian gnocchi. (Gnocchi have been, in fact, my fail safe substitute in foreign lands). It’s the texture that does it for me. They are like soft, chewy, springy putty. Gravy (there HAS to be gravy) sticks to Kartoffelknödel like iron filings to a magnet. Kartoffelknödel are a common accompaniment to German meat dishes, like pork roast and Sauerbraten.

Eastern Europe is Potato Crazy
OK, let’s get down to some figures. Which countries’ citizens consume the most fresh potatoes? I must admit, it was somewhat of a surprise to find Germany so frightfully low down on the list with just 22kg per capita in 2012. In 2007, it was still 30kg. Actually, Germany is very close to the global average of 23kg, but global consumption is slowly on the way up rather than declining. The reason for Germany’s dwindling fresh potato intake is the steadily growing popularity of processed foods, including processed potato products. Nobody wants to buy a bag of fresh potatoes anymore. I mean, they need preparation, perish the thought! Also, Germans scoff a lot of pasta and, increasingly, rice, displacing spuds as the national carbohydrate staple.

NewPotatoes

Really… you eat them like THAT?!?

As an aside – and things may have changed in the two+ decades since I left Germany – but eating a potato with the skin still on was totally unheard of back then. When I moved to the UK in the early 90’s, I was confronted with concept of “new potatoes” and baked potatoes. It was also the first time I’d seen people gobble up slices of (gasp!) unpeeled cucumber in their salads and sandwiches. I had clearly landed on an island inhabited by Pleistocene heathens. To my great relief, they did pull the skins off their bananas before biting into them, so not all was lost, as far as I could tell.

Back to the stats: Trumping the fresh potato consumption charts is the Ukraine, with 143kg per person in 2012. Now, this sounds like some serious potato load, but it’s an underestimate, because potatoes grown on allotments/datchas etc, destined for private consumption, which never enter the formal market place, are excluded from these figures.  Poland managed 116kg, and Russia 70kg. Incidentally, Peru, birthplace of the tuber, stood at 79kg per head.

Irish spud intake almost pales into insignificance by comparison, with 47kg and a falling tendency, but Ireland is still ahead of the UK’s 30kg. The US, shock horror, barely musters half of that! But we all know why: fries.

Yes, it was once a potato...

Screwed-up potatoes…

Next, let’s look at frozen processed potatoes. This includes potato chips for oven baking, potato waffles, croquettes, etc. The UK leads world per capita consumption with 21kg in 2013, followed by Australia and Canada (both 19kg), and the US (15kg).

Where potato crisps/chips are concerned, the surprise global leader turns out to be Norway, with a per capita intake of just over 4kg per head in 2013. Hot on its heels are the UK, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, followed by the US and Spain. In Spain, a small plate of “free” potato chips is usually served with drinks in places that can’t be bothered to do proper tapas. It’s always a total disappointment for me :(

Anyway, let’s hear it from everybody else – what’s your fave potato product that you couldn’t live without?

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51 thoughts on “Who Eats The Most Potatoes?

  1. ruthincolorado

    My mother was German, and so potatoes were a staple in our house. I LOVE potato pancakes with applesauce. I also love to toss them with olive oil and herbs and roast them on a baking sheet…mmm. I’m not a fan of processed food products. ;)

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  2. Anna

    Well then. First of all, that 70kg for Russia prolly also doesnt count the dacha potatoes and farmers market potatoes, which is where probably half the people procure theirs.

    As to the fave dish – just, anything, man. Fried, mashed, baked, curly fries, potato pancakes, on their own, as a garnish…it’s a separate food group for me.

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  3. suej

    I, like you, am not a great potato fan, but in the UK winter, a nice bit of buttery creamy mash is just the job with a meat casserole/stew. If asked for my favourite potato dish, it would be rösti, but not something I make very often!!

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  4. pollyheath

    Mmm. Those Kartoffelknödel look AWESOME! I love gnocchi (never actually managed to make it myself, but that’s another story). I’d have to say my favorite is a baked potato, though I am not a heathen and do not eat the skin.

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  5. Expat Eye

    Mmm, spuds! I just had a bowl of mashed potatoes with loads of butter for dinner ;) I’ll eat pretty much anything potato based! Surprised Latvia wasn’t on there but then, they have country houses and grow their own too!

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  6. linnetmoss

    Very interesting stats! Who would have thought that the Norwegians are so fond of chips/crisps? When I first met my husband’s Swedish-American family, I was shocked to find that they ate plain boiled potatoes. And for extra-special days, a sprinkling of dill! I was used to baked/jacket potatoes, french fries, mashed potatoes, home fries, all the good stuff. I think home fries are my favorite. Slightly parboiled chunks, fried in a pan with green peppers and onion until they turn golden brown and crispy on the outside, sprinkled with various savory or salty substances, then topped with cheese and sour cream… some restaurants have them for breakfast and they appear in infinite variety. But I like my own the best.

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  7. catalinadelbosque

    When I visited the US, there was a thing on the TV, a serious news piece, about the “rumour” that the Belgians invented French Fries. They then interviewed a bunch of French and Belgian people about how they felt about the Belgians invented such a classic French dish. Obviously not realising that nobody-else-in-the-world calls them French Fries – and they were actually surprised that neither the French nor the Belgians even cared!
    As for me, on a cold rainy early November, Monday night, you can’t beat a baked potato with cheese and bacon!

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  8. Giovannoni Claudine

    A brief lesson on the potatoes (as we know it in Switzerland)!
    – the potato eaters par excellence are the Belgians :-) (ehhh yes, and it’s well known). They go south in vacation with the camper, pulling along at least fifty pounds of potatoes… since the belgian brand is the best! ;-)
    – then there are the British and their fish&cips (tried personally last July, then: I confirm!)
    – we Swiss are caught on rösti and jacket potatoes for raclette… even during the hot summer days!
    – in Italy there are several little things (gnocchi, purèe di patate…) but nothing so crazy!
    Come on, however, we are sincere… potatoes are good, no matter how you cook it (you have to wash them, however, before cooking).
    Hugs Claudine

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  9. Andean

    Okay, I’m a bit late, but potato leek soup, and cabbage is added if it happens to be in the fridge. Really delicious on a cool night, anytime, really. Oh, did I mention you add cheese…

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  10. Rachel

    I’m almost ashamed to admit that my favourite form of potato is chips. Hot chips, that is, big thick ones (I think in the US they’re called something like “steak fries” or something) drenched in gravy and preferably with some form of chicken, although that’s not a requirement.

    Strangely enough, until I was about ten, I refused to eat any form of potato that wasn’t boiled and mashed with butter. Which was, of course, a great disappointment to my father, who practically lived on jacket potatoes.

    I also like roasted potatoes, and I won’t pass up a baked spud with bacon bits and sour cream, either.

    Is it strange that, even though the first word I ever learnt in German was “potato”, ten years later, I still can’t spell it? (Kartofel? Kartoffal? I don’t know…)

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