Native crops of Peru – Potato
Baked, fried, boiled, mashed, grated, dried, roasted, converted into flour, stuffed, stewed and grilled are some of the ways in which potatoes can be cooked. They come in different shapes and colors, many shades of purple, blue, violet, pink, red, brown and yellow, pink with brown spots, yellow with pink spots and endless combinations. In the sixteenth century the Spanish conquerors took the potato to the Old World, it became widely accepted and quickly adapted to the culinary traditions of different nations. Its consumption became universal and was massively consumed during the industrial revolution becoming an energy source for the working class. Currently it is the fourth largest staple food in the world after wheat, corn and rice. The annual world output of potato is more than 323 tons.
Peru is the birthplace of the potato; it originated in the Altiplano near Lake Titicaca at 12,500 feet above sea level. The potato was domesticated more than 8000 years ago, pre-Inca cultures and inhabitants of the Inca Civilization consumed the tuber and was their main source of nourishment. Around 2,500 varieties are native to the Peruvian Andes. The potato is part of the culinary culture of Peru and for many Peruvians the tuber is their main staple food. There are communities in the Andes that live off only potatoes as other crops are not available. Many families in the Andes consume two pounds of potatoes per meal, it does not provide a balanced diet but provides the main nutrients.
“Botany of Desire” is a documentary by PBS based on a book by Michael Pollan.
This clip contains footage from Parque de la Papa, near Pisaq, which is near Cusco in Peru.
In 1971 the International Potato Center (IPC) was founded in Lima. It is a research institution financed by international organizations with the objective of improving the production of the tuber and other crops in developing nations in order to decrease malnutrition. Recovering traditional knowledge and applying scientific research will help maintain a sustainable use of the potato crop. Biologists, agronomic engineers and geneticists have collected samples and created the world’s largest collection of tubers, around 5000 varieties in seeds, tissue culture and plants. They have rescued varieties that have been abandoned and rediscovered other wild varieties of potatoes. Their goal is to preserve their diversity and learn about their special traits such as resistance to cold, diseases and drought in order to create more commercial varieties. The IPC also provides assistance to communities that have had their crops affected by weather conditions such as freezes or floods or by diseases by providing technical assistance and new seeds.
More about Peru’s Native Crops
The name Theobroma means “food of the gods” in Greek. Cacao comes from the word cacahuatl from the Nahuatl language used by the Aztecs.
Rediscovered in Peru, Pure Nacional was found growing in the valley of the Marañon Canyon.
Peru has a great variety of food due to its many microclimates and elevations and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. It features one of the best cuisines in South America.