Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.; in Austria, referred to as Erdäpfel, i.e. "ground" or "earth apples", as opposed to Kartoffeln in Germany): Two potato tubers were sent to C. Clusius as a curiosity for the Vienna Botanical Gardens in 1588. Potatoes were first cultivated in a garden of the monastery of Seitenstetten (Lower Austria) in 1620. Maria Theresia und Joseph II promoted potato cultivation, which was first documented at Pyhrabruck in the Waldviertel around 1740. J. Jungblut (d. 1795), parish priest of Prinzendorf (Lower Austria), had potatoes brought from his home country, Holland, in 1761 ("Potato Monument" on the wall of the church of Prinzendorf, 1834). Potato cultivation was greatly stimulated by the famine of 1772/73. During the Napoleonic Wars potatoes became a food staple, which also played an important role in the years of food scarcity during World Wars I and II.
The potato plant is a herbaceous annual belonging to the family of Solanaceae. All its green parts, including the tubers that have turned green under the influence of light, are poisonous. The tubers contain up to zu 20 % starch und 2 % raw protein and are used as food and animal feed as well as for the production of starch flour and alcohol. Some 2,000 varieties are known to exist worldwide, about 50 of which are cultivated in Austria (e.g. the Sirtema, Linzer Delikatesse, Naglerner Kipfler, Sieglinde, Sigma and Bintje varieties). They differ in starch content, time required to reach maturity, skin and tuber colour, tuber shape and disease resistance. Because of a decline in annual per-capita consumption (60.1kg) and in particular on account of the shift from potatoes to cereals in pig raising, the area under potato crops has been declining drastically, from 215.562 hectares in 1937 to 52.500 hectares in 1980 and 31.000 hectares in 1993. Austria's potato crop (886.000 tons in 1993) fully meets domestic demand.