Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by Griselda M.
In this article, we answer the much-requested question, is a potato a root? Potatoes are one of my favorite things to grow as they are easy to maintain. Most people know nearly nothing about potatoes other than that they taste good! I actually breed new types of potatoes and have, at last count, about 45 different varieties growing in my garden. These include all shapes, colors, and sizes! Let’s have a look at potatoes and answer the question, “Is a potato a root vegetable or not?”
Potatoes are South American plants that have been cultivated for food for thousands of years. Solanum tuberosum is the species’ scientific name of the potato. In its name, we actually find the answer to our question,” Is Potato a root vegetable or not?” Ok, so we can see in the species name that it is a tuberous plant!
A potato is a stem tuber – in other words, it is a modified stem that grows underground and stores nutrients. Technically, this means that it is not a root! However, root tubers are found in plants such as sweet potatoes. To learn more about this sought-after food source, have a look at the information below.
A few of the unique potatoes I have bred.
A Quick Background on Potatoes
A potato tuber is a swollen stem. If you plant a potato tuber, it will “chit” or start growing shoots at the eyes/nodes, and these will grow up and out of the soil. Roots will grow around the tuber, and these will gather nutrients that are then taken to the leaves, where photosynthesis happens. Excess sugar is relocated to the roots, converted to starch, and stored.
As the potato nears the end of its growth cycle, it will store nutrients in lots of tubers underground. The plant will then flower, and the flower develops into little “potato cherries” that look a bit like tomatoes. These are full of seeds. Now, here is where things get interesting.
When you dig a potato up, you can keep the biggest potatoes to eat, and I normally keep all the golf-ball-size ones for replanting. If you plant a potato, it is genetically identical to the parent plant – because a potato is really just a stem “cutting” for want of a better word.
This means that when you plant a bed of potatoes, if you use a single cultivar, such as Siffra (this is probably the worst, most horrible potato in the world), then your entire bed of potatoes will be insipid, identical, bland siffra types. Keep in mind that this occurs because every potato plant is a clone of the parent plant, as I have mentioned above.
Genuine new potatoes grown from seeds
If, however, we take a potato cherry that is filled with seeds and germinate these, every seedling will be an entirely new and unique potato type!! Now, this may sound easy, but it is not – I have germinated thousands of potato seeds over the years, and a very small number have proven to be of any use! As you know, I have only grown 45 new types of potatoes to date! All the others either grew and did not produce potatoes, died before developing, or they made potatoes that had defects that meant there was no point going further with that strain.
Is Potato a Root Vegetable?
Root vegetables are broadly classified as underground plant parts that can be eaten. This is a really non-scientific classification. But, according to this definition, a potato is a root vegetable, even though it is a stem tuber!
Learn more about How To Plant Potato Roots
How to Plant a Potato
If you plant a potato tuber in the soil, it will grow into a potato plant and produce a bigger harvest. If you have never grown potatoes before, I would suggest you try your first grow-in potato grow bags such as these.
You can use a general all-purpose potting soil such as this and I would mix three parts of this soil with one part of perlite. This improves aeration and drainage in your soil.
Choose organic, healthy potatoes at the shop. I am not a big fan of buying seed potatoes – these are invariably soaked in horrible systemic fungicides and other bad things. Life is too short to grow boring potatoes, so my general feeling is to try and grow exciting potatoes! Red, purple, orange, etc. Most specialty greengrocers now tend to have novelty potato packs consisting of these interesting colors.
What Are The Different Types of Potatoes?
There are thousands and thousands of varieties of potatoes in the world. Every time a seed of a potato cherry germinates, it becomes a new variety of potatoes. You can divide potatoes into all sorts of different classifications. My general favorite method is to divide them up into potatoes that are good to fry, those that are good to boil, and those that are good to bake.
A really good potato will be usable for all of the above. But a junk shop cultivar, such as a lot of potatoes in the world, is bred more for economic gain than flavor. Yield, storability, disease resistance, and so on are actually far further up the ladder of important characteristics for a commercial breeder than taste is.
Once you learn to grow your own potatoes, you will find shop potatoes are just a poor substitute.
Conclusion on is Potato a Root Vegetable
A potato is a stem tuber, and it grows underground. In this regard, it is referred to as a “root” vegetable even though it is actually a stem! Growing your own potatoes is a very rewarding hobby, and if you do this, you can let the potato plants go to seed!
When this happens, you can harvest the little tomato-like potato cherries, and the little black seeds in this fruit can be germinated. Remember that each seed that germinates produces a completely new and unique potato type!
Is Potato a Bulb Vegetable?
So, is a potato a bulb vegetable? Even though potatoes are grown similarly, they are not bulbous vegetables. Onions, garlic, spring onions, and chives are the most commonly known bulb vegetables. Potatoes, on the other hand, are true tubers. Although they are grown underground and are often thought of as bulbous vegetables, they are actually quite different.
To give you a better understanding of tubers, they are plant stems that have been modified. As I have mentioned further up, there are also a variety of potato cultivars that come in different sizes, colors, and shapes according to the category type they fall under. Additionally, potatoes can be grown either from seed pieces or true seeds.
Root Vegetables Similar to Potato
What are root vegetables similar to potatoes? Several root vegetables come close to potatoes. Several varieties are also high in carbohydrates with intense or mild flavors. These root vegetables include carrots, sweet potato, parsnips, beetroot, yams, jicama, turnips, celeriac, and Jerusalem artichokes, amongst others. Just like the common potato, the above-mentioned vegetables can be prepared and eaten in the same ways.
You have the option to boil, fry, or bake them when preparing meals. While some of these vegetables are often consumed raw, potatoes and other starchy varieties like yams are not. However, thinly slicing your favorite root vegetables and deep frying them would turn them into delicious crispy chips that you usually make with potatoes.
The nightshade family, or Solanaceae as it is scientifically known, includes potatoes and unsimilar crops like tobacco, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers, amongst others. Also, note that while some vegetables are very similar to potatoes, their carbohydrate content can be much lower. These include the root vegetable Jicama, which does have a sweeter taste than potatoes but is a healthy option if you’re counting carbs.
Are Potatoes with Roots Bad?
As an avid gardener, I have often been asked, are potatoes with roots bad? The answer is no; potatoes that have sprouted are not bad and can be eaten. All you would need to do is to remove the sprouts before preparation, and the potatoes should be good. However, ensure that you remove them from the inside out when doing so. This can be done using the edge of a vegetable peeler or with a sharp kitchen knife.
So, why is it important to remove the visible root growth in potatoes? The reason for removing large sprouts from potatoes is that they are not very appetizing when prepared. They have the potential to flaw the taste of your dish, which can be unpleasant. Furthermore, potatoes with evident root growth can also make you ill if consumed.
This is due to the possibility of solanine poisoning, which can occur from eating spoiled or rooted potatoes. If you find that your potatoes have grown very large roots or sprouts, then it is advisable to toss them to avoid any issues.
Potato Stem Modification
Potato stem modification is common, as just like other plant species, this process is implemented to suit certain environments and habitats. A potato is referred to as a tuber because of its stolons that appear as swollen ends. These stolons are also known to store starch, while the base of the stem is surrounded by a bulb that usually stores food. To give you a better understanding of potato stem modification, take heed of the explanations below.
Understanding what is potato stem modification:
What is a rhizome?
Known to grow horizontally underground, rhizomes are modified stems that have internodes and nodes. If you had to look at plants like ginger and ferns, you would notice vertical shoots that emerge from their buds. These are also known as rhizomes.
What are corms?
Although corms have a similarity to rhizomes, they also have notable differences. This can be seen in their shape and texture as they are rounded and fleshy. The purpose of corms is to store food that can be accessed by potatoes and other plants during the winter months.
What are stolons?
Stolons can grow just below the surface of the ground or above it. They are stem that usually grow in a parallel fashion and produce new plant growth from their nodes. However, stolons very rarely grow below the surface of the ground, so most of the time, they can be seen.
What are runners?
Runners are modified stolons on potato plants that grow above the soil. Their purpose is to produce new plant growth at different intervals. This cloned new growth emerges from the plant nodes.
What are tubers?
Modified stems known as tubers grow from the stolon swollen end. They produce several unusual new buds and are the main source of starch storage for potato plants.
What is a bulb?
Bulbs are modified stems with fleshy leaves. They can be seen growing from the stem of plants, and their main function is to serve as storage spaces. Other aerial stem modifications include cladodes, thorns, and tendrils.
Is potatoes a root or stem?
A potato is a stem tuber - a tuber is an underground storage organ. You get root tubers and stem tubers. Potatoes are stem tubers.
What are root vegetables?
Root vegetables are all the vegetables that grow below the surface of the ground. They include carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, and radishes. Roots are an important part of a healthy diet and can provide your body with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other health benefits.
Potato is root or stem?
Potatoes are stem tubers - in other words they are an enlarged underground stem that stores energy and nutrients. Hence they are stems.
Is a potato considered a vegetable?
Vegetables are whole plants, or parts thereof that are eaten for food. In this regard a potato is a vegetable.
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Branko is the world‘s most enthusiastic gardener! He is always on the hunt for the perfect flower, bush or tree to add to his ever–growing garden. He is known for his love of all things green, and his passion for nurturing the plants he grows is unmatched. He loves to get his hands dirty and can often be found humbly tending to his garden at all hours of the day. Branko is the go–to guy when it comes to gardening advice – he is always happy to share his knowledge and wisdom with anyone who will listen. He also loves to play pranks on unsuspecting visitors, so beware if you enter his garden!