Monday, May 22, 2017

Not Ireland, Not Idaho...

Here's why we should be so excited about potatoes in Peru, their land of origin:
More than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes grow in the Andean highlands of Peru, Boliva, and Ecuador.  Selected over centuries for their taste, texture, shape and color, these potato varieties are very well adapted to the harsh conditions that prevail in the high Andes, at altitudes ranging from 3,500 to 4,200 meters. Farmers generally produce these native varieties with minimal or no use of agrochemicals.
Diversity is conserved on farms and in communities for subsistence use and as a highly valued heritage. Most of these varieties never see a market; they are traded among highland and lowland communities and given as gifts for weddings and other occasions. The varieties differ from community to community.    Native Potato Varieties  

[This by the way from the CIP, the International Potato Center, in Lima, another place, which, as usual, is too serious for us to visit, like that nuclear plant in France, or that cool solar tower in Spain, or a solar industry in Shanghai...]  

Lima Easy will add, in "The 3800 Different Potatoes" in Peru, "The oldest archeological [potato] findings were made in the area of Lake Titicaca, the area around Ayacucho and in the Valley of Chulca. The word "papa" is originally Quechua and simply means tuber," and that "As wild potatoes taste bitter and contain small amounts of toxins, early cultures must have spend quite a bit of an effort to select the right tubers for cultivation that are more tasty and less toxic."  This article continues with a lengthy visual list of different types.  Cool!

The Smithsonian gives an intriguing account of "How the Potato Changed the World."   Not only this amusing trivia:
When potato plants bloom, they send up five-lobed flowers that spangle fields like fat purple stars. By some accounts, Marie Antoinette liked the blossoms so much that she put them in her hair. Her husband, Louis XVI, put one in his buttonhole, inspiring a brief vogue in which the French aristocracy swanned around with potato plants on their clothes. The flowers were part of an attempt to persuade French farmers to plant and French diners to eat this strange new species.
but also that "the potato’s arrival in northern Europe spelled an end to famine there" and "set the template for modern agriculture—the so-called agro-industrial complex."

And one more bit, from the Washington Post, on Peru's celebration of potato diversity:
Along the frigid spine of the Andes, men and women in bare feet uproot tubers of multiple shapes and colors _ yellow, red, blue, purple, violet, pink with yellow spots, yellow with pink spots; round, oblong, twisted, hooked at the end like walking canes or spiraled like spinning tops.
     Their names in Quechua, the ancient language of the Andes, evoke an intimate human connection: "best black woman," "best red woman," "makes the daughter-in-law cry," "like a deer's white tongue," "red shadow" and "like an old bone," to name a few.
     In their annual harvest this year, the villagers of Aymara gathered more than 2,000 types of potatoes from a 2 1/2-acre field. Scientists from the Lima-based International Potato Center were there to replenish their bank and provide more seeds to Andean communities.Respect for the many variations of potatoes is so profound among Aymara's 650 villagers that it was a natural place for the world's agronomists to produce seeds for a gene bank to preserve their diversity. The cold climate also protects against parasites that infest low-lying potato farms.  
Well, let's hope we see even a fraction of these amazing tubers, and figure out a way to sample at least 10 different types

later, bob

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