der Kartoffelbefehl

Der Kartoffelbefehl or How the potato came to Germany

The potato is one of the most favorite vegetables in Germany. Every German eats between 60 to 70 kilo of potatoes each year! And Germans invented many ways to cook the spuds over the years.

Before we get into the vocabulary around potatoes in a second post, here is some short historical background. Friedrich II. von Preußen better known as Friedrich der Große or Der Alte Fritz issued an order in 1756 which was titled Kartoffelbefehl, potato order. In this order he urged the administration in the different Prussian provinces to make sure that farmers plant potatoes in order to get a better food supply for the Prussian population.

Below is a quote from the second Kartoffelbefehl, 1757. This is antiquated German, however in most parts still articulate for us today.

„Wo nur ein leerer Platz zu finden ist, soll die Kartoffel angebaut werden, da diese Frucht nicht allein sehr nützlich zu gebrauchen, sondern auch dergestalt ergiebig ist, daß die darauf verwendete Mühe sehr gut belohnt wird. (…) Übrigens müßt ihr es beym bloßen Bekanntwerden der Instruction nicht bewenden, sondern durch die Land-Dragoner und andere Creißbediente Anfang May revidieren lassen, ob auch Fleiß bey der Anpflantzung gebraucht worden, wie Ihr denn auch selbst bey Euren Bereysungen untersuchen müsset, ob man sich deren Anpflantzung angelegen seyn lasse.“

“Everywhere you find an empty spot there shall be planted potatoes as this fruit is not only very useful but also so efficient that the effort put into (the cultivation) is very well rewarded. (…) By the way, don’t leave it by the mere announcement of this instruction but let it be revised by the Land-Dragoons and district administrators beginning of May to see if there has been put care into the planting like you need to examine if the planting took place during your official visits.”

In this second order Friedrich even added recipes like mashed potatoes, potatoes as a side dish for fish or meat or potato in the skin with salt.

Friedrich II. Grabplatte

If you visit Sanssouci, the palace Friedrich built in Potsdam you will notice how thankful Germans, especially in the northern part, are still for this Kartoffelbefehl as many people leave a potato as a gift to the king on this tomb slab.

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