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I was the other day in the market and I saw the following sign:

Speisekartoffeln, vorwiegend festkochend

and my brain couldn't help but wonder: What is the point of calling a potato "Speisekartoffel"? After all, all potatoes can be eaten, no?

Is there any special connotation hidden, within this word, that differs it from normal potatoes? Or is it just a redundancy within the word, that can be totally omitted?

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Speisekartoffeln is the official term to distinguish potatoes intended for human consumption from Futterkartoffeln (for animal feed), Saatkartoffeln (seedlings) and Stärkekartoffeln (industrial raw material, for paper manufacturing and as a glue base product).

Obviously, all of those are potatoes, and one wouldn't really expect to see anything but Speisekartoffeln in a supermarket. So I go with you it is some kind of marketing nonsense.

  • In that case, the only difference is the way it is "used"? A "speisekartoffeln" can become any other kind of kartoffeln? – Enrique Moreno Tent Apr 3 '16 at 10:13
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    @Dbugger not necessarily. Stärkekartoffeln have more starch (Stärke) in them. And nowadays, many companies, that produce seedlings design them that their offspring can't be used for seeding. so a Speisekartoffel could come from a Saatkartoffel but couldn't be used as one. – Armin Apr 3 '16 at 10:21
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    Was ist mit Früh- und Süßkartoffeln? – user unknown Apr 3 '16 at 12:52
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    @userunknown Frühkartoffeln are "early potatoes" - the new and first potatoes in the year. Often with a fine taste and a very thin skin. Süßkartoffeln are a fruit on its own - the main thing they share with potatoes is the name ;) – knut Apr 3 '16 at 14:03
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    @user unknown Früh- und Süsskartoffeln are not legally required Lebensmittelkennzeichnungen (see Takkat's answer below) while the three mentioned ones are. – tofro Apr 5 '16 at 6:27
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In this case the shop followed a German law on what must be written on a label of all food offered for sale (Lebensmittelkennzeichnungsverordnung):

§ 4 Verkehrsbezeichnung
(1) Die Verkehrsbezeichnung eines Lebensmittels ist die in Rechtsvorschriften festgelegte Bezeichnung, bei deren Fehlen
1.   die nach allgemeiner Verkehrsauffassung übliche Bezeichnung oder
2.   eine Beschreibung des Lebensmittels und erforderlichenfalls seiner Verwendung, die es dem Verbraucher ermöglicht, die Art des Lebensmittels zu erkennen und es von verwechselbaren Erzeugnissen zu unterscheiden.

The key word here is the Verkehrsbezeichnung, i.e. the name for any food product which for potatoes again is defined by law (Verordnung über gesetzliche Handelsklassen für Speisekartoffeln HdlKlKartV).

The Bayerische Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft published a guide on labelling of potatoes where it says:

Grundlegender Bestandteil der Verkehrsbezeichnung ist der Oberbegriff „Speisekartoffeln“.

So the term Speisekartoffel though redundant is a legal term that must be used by law when selling potatoes in Germany.

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    I am speechless... Amazing answer! – Enrique Moreno Tent Apr 3 '16 at 10:46
  • Germany has far too many laws and regulations... the amazing thing is that we are still able to breathe. ;) – Takkat Apr 3 '16 at 10:50
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    @takkat or take a deeeeeeep breath when dealing with them ^_^ – Stephie Apr 3 '16 at 11:08
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    It actually makes some sense, because by using Speisekartoffeln vendors assure their consumers that they are not selling them Futter- or Stärkekartoffeln which cannot be distinguished easily by most people, even if the correct cultivar was shown on the label. Such frauds were common in the past and illegal relabeling probably still happens. Saatkartoffeln are sometimes sold for cooking as Drillinge, but they’re clearly smaller – actually the ones sold at high prices in supermarkets are often too small for seeding, thus would otherwise be considered B or C class, i.e. animal feed. – Crissov Apr 3 '16 at 14:02
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    @Takkat As long as they aren't draconian or insensible they aren't necessarily bad I guess. – xji Apr 5 '16 at 8:22

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