The results are in, and the news is devastating: Our beloved Doug the Potato is not a potato. The Associated Press reports that DNA testing has shown the potentially record-breaking vegetable is in fact the tuber of a gourd, and therefore cannot be awarded the coveted title of World’s Heaviest Potato.
Back in November 2021, New Zealand couple Colin and Donna Craig-Brown discovered the alleged potato, which they later named “Doug” because why not, while weeding their garden. Doug, which staff writer Lillian Stone described as looking like a “thoughtful walrus,” weighed in at 17.4 pounds, roughly enough potato for 58 large McDonald’s fries. The current Guinness World Record for heaviest potato is 11 pounds, so naturally the Craig-Browns called up Mr. Guinness to see if their new friend made the cut.
But the folks at Guinness are thorough—in the competitive world of record setting, they have to be—and they wouldn’t hand out the top prize until there was a DNA test proving Doug was, in fact, a potato. Colin said he sent a chunk of Doug to researchers at researchers at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture hoping to prove Doug’s true tater-ness. Alas, the results were not what he was hoping and Doug was disqualified.
Still, Doug remains something of a local celebrity after being wheeled around town in a cart with a hat on, gathering Facebook fans. He still lives in the Craig-Browns’ freezer, and Colin tells The Associated Press he says “hello!” to his gourd tuber friend every morning when he gets out his breakfast sausage. Now that he’s learned so much about potatoes, next year he might try to grow the world-record-breaker in earnest.
Here’s the short version: All potatoes are tubers, but not all tubers are potatoes, and a tuber of a gourd appears to be something else entirely.
Stem tubers are the storage stems of plants, always growing underground, often horizontally. They can be differentiated from other roots and stems because of the nodules or “eyes” grown on the surface, and they often sprout leaves, buds, or other growths. Jerusalem artichokes, yams, taro, and, of course, potatoes are some of the most common edible tubers.
While a “gourd tuber” doesn’t appear to be a specific, standalone species, the tuber of the gourd could refer to a variation of a tuberous root. This simply means that there is a growth on the root of a plant that, yes, can resemble a potato. This happens often on the roots of nonedible plants like dahlias, in which case we’re often so distracted by the flowering part of the plant that we don’t realize how bulbous it is underground.
So, it seems safe to conclude that Doug is a 17-pound tuberous growth on the root of a gourd plant. And while he’s not quite a potato, maybe the Guinness people can find it in their hearts to invent a world record just for that.