It took more than 1,500 kg of raw Naxos potatoes, 22 huge cauldrons, the hard work of 40 volunteers and the determination of a whole island, but in the end Naxos won the bet.
“We have broken the Guinness World Record. Greece is celebrating,” announced Dimitris Kapounis, president of the island’s agricultural cooperatives union on Saturday.
The electronic scale that weighed the fried potatoes read 554 kg, which is 100 kg more than the previous world record set in 2014 in Eagles, Idaho, in the United States.
According to organizers, setting a Guinness World Record was not an easy task. In order to make it into the world-famous book, strict rules apply. In this case, the potatoes had to be peeled and cut in a certain way, they had to be fried according to specific hygienic standards, weighed, served in a single container, and then distributed and eaten.
All these stages had to be documented by photos, videos, testimonies and formal statements. The evidence was then sent to the Guinness committee to be assessed before it puts its famous stamp on the achievement.
For Naxos, the biggest of the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean Sea, potatoes are as precious as gold. “Naxos is where the heart of the potato beats,” said chef Stelios Korres, who supervised the cooking leg of the operation.
Cultivated on the island since the early 1800s, the potato provided a cheap and nutritious alternative to the rural, poverty-stricken masses.
However, it didn’t become the island’s signature product until 1953, when Naxos was officially designated by the Greek state as the center for the cultivation and production of the Greek seed potatoes.
One of the oldest potato growers on the island, 77-year-old Nikoletta Kapouni, said she remembered how the modest, popular vegetable had raised one generation of Naxians after the next.
“Ever since I was born, in my father’s arms, we were growing potatoes and I was gathering them. When I got married I did the same, and even now that my husband has passed away, my children grow potatoes and I still help them.”
“We all grew up in the potato fields, I have been collecting potatoes since I was eight years old,” her son Dimitris Kapounis said.
To this day, more than 250 families depend on potato growing and livestock breeding on Naxos, an island where 60 percent of the population make their living in the farming sector. They produce 8.5 million kg of potatoes per year, which allows them to meet consumer demands of a big part of mainland Greece.
Indeed, there is strong demand for Naxos potatoes, and their taste has established a countrywide reputation.
“There is no place where potatoes taste as good as here. They are our pride and joy,” Kapouni claimed.
According to locals, what sets their potatoes apart is a combination of the area’s unique micro climate and the growers’ adherence to traditional farming practices.
“[Naxos potato] is under Protected Geographical Indication status. The climatic conditions allow us to cultivate it twice a year, the soil quality gives a sweet and tasty potato and we fertilize it naturally,” Kapounis said.
“The big difference is that the potato fields here are near the sea: the soil is sandy and naturally seasoned with the sea’s iodine … So, [the potato] becomes more tasteful and rich,” Korres added.
Locals hope that the newly-set Guinness world record will make their island a worldwide attraction for potato lovers.
“Our aim is to make Naxos potato famous all around Greece, all around Europe, all around the world,” said Kapounis.