14 Mar HALACHICALLY SPEAKING: THE POTATO IN HALACHA
In Yiddish a potato is called a kartufel. The reason why it is called a kartufel is because the potato which was meant to be a tufel food has been made into an ikur. The potato is a vegetable that was not around in the days of the Gemorah or Rishonim. Although, the potato first reached the shores of North America in the 18th century, the current value of the world potato market is 100 billion dollars.Can we imagine a world without potato kugel, latkes or french fries? Horav Avigdor Miller zt”l said we have a great zechus that the potato is part of our diet. The Gemorah mentions many steps one has to follow in order to put bread on his table, while potatoes can be prepared straight from the soil. This is something to think about the next time we recite a beracha on a potato. There are many halachos that apply to this wonderful vegetable which is eaten daily by millions of people.Making Designs out of a PotatoSometimes one wishes to take a potato, cut it into different shapes and put some coloring etc on it to decorate it. This is done as art project etc. to make the potato look good. However, one should not do this to a potato since it is a disgrace for the potato, and one is not allowed to treat foods in a disrespectful manner.Beracha RishonaThere are many poskim who maintain that the correct beracha rishona on a potato is shehakol. Their reason is because the potato does not really grow from the ground, rather it grows from air around the ground. However, the concensus of most poskim is that the beracha on a potato is indeed hadama. Unless one has the custom to recite shehakol on a potato he should recite hadama like the majority custom of klal yisroel.Raw PotatoesA food which is not edible does not require a beracha rishona should one wish to eat it. Accordingly, one would not recite a beracha rishona before eating a raw potato since it is not edible. For this reason some poskim say that a raw potato is muktzah on Shabbos and may not be moved. However, since on Yom Tov cooking is permitted, one may move (and use) a raw potato.BorekasThe custom is to recite mezonos on borekas since they have a thick crust made from flour.Mashed/Instant PotatoesA vegetable which is mashed to the point that one cannot recognize the type of vegetable it was originally requires a shehakol. If one recited a hadama on a vegetable that is mashed and not recognizable the beracha is valid b’dieved. Accordingly, if potatoes were mashed to the point that they are not recognizable (i.e. in an electric blender) the beracha is shehakol. However, in many cases one can still tell that the mashed food is potato and therefore, the minhag haolom is that the beracha would still be a hadama. Potatoes that were mashed by hand definitely require a hadama since one can easily see that the food is potato.In regard to instant potatoes, since after one adds a little water to the powder one can tell that the food is potato, the beracha remains hadama (see footnote).Potato Kugel/LatkesIf the potato ingredients are processed in a way that one no longer recognizes the mixture as potato, the beracha on the potato kuglel or latkes would be shehakol. However, in many cases one can still recognize that the mixture is potato and the beracha would still be hadama. Some say that even if the potatoes where ground to the point that they are not recognizable the beracha is still hadama because the derech of potatoes is for them to be mashed in this manner. Nevertheless, the custom of many people is to recite a shehakol on potato kugel in any case.Potato StarchIf the flour is edible and one has enjoyment from eating it, then one would recite the beracha of shehakol on it. Some say one can eat food made from potato starch and be yotzei the inyun of pas shacharis with it. The beracha recited on cake made from potato starch is shehakol.Potato ChipsPotato chips are made by thinly slicing potatoes and deep frying them. Therefore, the beracha on potato chips is hadama. The same halacha applies to potato sticks.Pringles®Pringles® are not made the same way a regular potato chip is made. Pringles® potato chips were introduced in 1969 by Procter and Gamble. Pringles® are made from potatoes that have been cooked, mashed, dehydrated, and then reconstituted into dough. They are then cut into a uniform shape and then quick fried. The poskim discuss which beracha to make on them. Some say Pringles® are considered to have been made form potato flour and therefore the beracha would be a shehakol. Others say since it is noticeable that one is eating potato when eating Pringles® the beracha is still hadama, and this is the minhag ha’olom.Potato KnishA knish which has a layer of dough which completely surrounds the potato (i.e. Mom’s knish) requires a mezonos, and no hadama is necessary on the potato filling. However, a knish which is not surrounded by a crust on all sides would require a mezonos on the crust and a hadama on the potatoes.French FriesWhen eating french fries with ketchup, the ketchup is normally considered a tufel to the french fries. Therefore, only hadama is recited on the french fries and no shehakol is recited on the ketchup.Potato SoupThe beracha on potato soup is hadama, which also exempts the liquid broth.Meat and Potato StewThe meat and potatoes in a stew are usually not mixed to the point that they are not recognizable and could be considered a single mixture in regard to the beracha to recite on it. Rather, the meat and potatoes are usually recognizable and not considered a mixture, and therefore, both the meat and the potatoes require their own berochos.HatmanaOne is permitted to wrap a piece of potato kugel in aluminum foil and put it in the cholent on Erev Shabbos. There is no problem of hatmana because since one’s intention is for the kugel to absorb the taste of the cholent, it is considered a way of cooking and not hatmana. However, some say one should poke holes in the silver foil before placing it in the cholent.Mashed Potatoes (Tochain)A fruit or vegetable that becomes very soft when it is cooked may be mashed on Shabbos. The reason is because after cooking, the pieces of vegetable are considered to have already been separated. Based on this, one is permitted to mash a cooked potato on Shabbos. Nevertheless, one may only use a fork and not a grater because of uvda d’chol. Others are stringent with this.Placing Sauce on a Potato (Losh)One is permitted to place cooked sauce on a cooked potato on Shabbos and there is no concern of losh. The reason is that one’s intention is to make the food more enjoyable and not to mix the sauce with the potato.Daver GushA hot potato is considered like a kli rishon even when it is off the fire because it is a dense solid (daver gush). Therefore, one may not place anything on a hot potato that will then cook as if placed on a kli rishon. For example, one may not place spices onto a hot potato. Cooked salt may be placed onto a hot potato which has been moved to a kli sheini. Many people are not careful with this and one should begin to treat a potato as a kli rishon on Shabbos. One may place ketchup on a hot potato on Shabbos.Potatoes on PesachThere are some poskim who include potatoes in the minhag to refrain from eating kitniyos on Pesach, since they too are ground into flour which can be confused with grain flour. However, this opinion is not accepted today. Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l says the reason is because we only define something as kitniyos if there is a custom to regard it as kitniyos. Another reason is that the great need for potatoes on Pesach kept them away from being prohibited. Furthermore, the minhag to refrain from eating kitniyos dates back to the times of the Maharil when potatoes were not yet available.Red PotatoesSome red potatoes contain artificial coloring for which the Pesach status is unknown. Therefore, one should only purchase red potatoes that do not state on the bag or box that coloring is added.KarpasOne of the reasons to eat karpas is because it is a remez for the 600,000 people who worked in Mitzrayim (samach perach, which is karpas in Hebrew starting with the last letter). The poskim say that one should take a vegetable that is a hadama for karpas and have in mind that this beracha should exempt the moror which will be eaten later.Many people have the custom to use a potato for karpas. Others say since there are poskim who maintain that the beracha on a potato is shehakol, one should not take a potato for karpas and instead should use a different vegetable whose beracha is definitely hadama. One is not required to follow his father’s custom regarding which vegetable to use for karpas.Potato Latkes (Chanukah)The minhag of virtually all of the klal yisroel is to eat latkes on Chanukah. The seforim say the reason for this is because we want to have a remembrance of the miracle which happened with oil. Therefore, we try to eat food cooked in a lot of oil, namely potatoes.Potatoes as Ner ChanukahThe Avnei Nezer holds that one is not allowed to make a hole in a potato and use it to hold oil for the Chanukah neiros. This is because since the potato does not last for a long time it is not considered a daver chasuv, and therefore, can not be used to hold the oil.Bishul AkumA food which is eaten raw or is not fit for a kings’ table never has a problem of bishul akum. There is a discussion in the poskim whether a potato is fit to be served on a kings’ table. Some poskim say a potato is fit to be served on a kings’ table while others hold it is not. If a food is served at a smorgasbord it is considered fit to be served on a king’s table. The minhag is that a potato is not fit to be served on a kings’ table. However, if a potato is made in a way that it is fit for a kings’ table, then that particular potato could potentially be a problem of bishul akum. Some poskim hold even though the potato is not fit for a kings’ table in one way of preparing it, since it could be fit for a kings’ table if prepared differently, the whole min of potatoes is considered fit to be served on a kings’ table, and all potatoes would need bishul yisroel. However, most poskim disagree with this statement and maintain that one judges each way of preparing the potato separately. Accordingly, if a specific potato is prepared in a way that it is fit for a kings’ table then only that type of potato is a problem of bishul akum. This is the opinion followed by most kashrus agencies. (A sweet potato is generally fit to be served on a king’s table when cooked etc. Therefore, it would require bishul yisroel).The previous machlokes has ramifications in regard to potato chips. Some say since a fried potato is fit to be served at a kings’ table one may not eat potato chips unless they have bishul yisroel even though potato chips themselves are not served on kings table. Others say since fried potatoes are not fit to be served at a kings’ table, potato chips would not require bishul yisroel. This is the opinion of the majority of the poskim.Potatoes at a WeddingFried potatoes that appear at weddings as side dishes are in fact fully edible boiled potatoes that are merely placed in oil to deep fry for a small amount of time in order to brown them. Therefore, the potatoes are not actually considered fried, but rather cooked and then browned in some oil.French Fries- Bishul AkumThe fact that French fries appear at the children’s table at weddings does not make fried potatoes fit to be served on a kings’ table. Accordingly, frozen french fries do not require bishul yisroel.Pringles® –Bishul AkumThe consensus of the poskim at the OU is that Pringles® are not considered a food that is fit to be served on a kings table, and do not require bishul yisroel in order to permit a hechsher to be placed on them.Mashed/Instant Potatoes- Bishul AkumOne is not required to have bishul yisroel in order to permit a hechsher to be given on either mashed or instant potatoes. The reason for this is because there is an opinion in the poskim who maintains that if a goy makes a food which is not fit to eat until a yisroel cooks it, such a food does not need bishul yisroel to permit one to give a hechsher on it. The same halacha would apply to potato flakes.Tevilas KeilimA peeler that is exclusively used to peel potatoes should be toveled without a beracha.Checking For BugsThere is no need to check the outside of a potato for bugs. Some poskim say that one should check the inside of the potato for bugs.