2 Feb 2014

Peruvian Potatoes


The origins of the potato can be traced to the highlands of the Peruvian Andes-mountains in South America on the border between Bolivia and Peru, 8,000 years ago. There, 
research indicates, communities of hunters and gatherers who had first entered the South American continent at least 7,000 years before began domesticating wild potato 
plants that grew around the lake in abundance. Some 200 species of wild potatoes are found in the Americas. The food security provided by maize and potato 
consolidated by the development of irrigation and terracing – allowed the emergence around 500 AD of the Huari civilization in the highland Ayacucho basin. Around the 
same time, the city state of Tiahuanacu rose near Lake Titicaca, thanks largely to its sophisticated “raised field” technology elevated soil beds lined with water canals – 
which produced potato yields estimated at 10 tonnes per hectare. At its height, around 800 AD, Tiahuanacu and neighbouring valleys are believed to have sustained a 
population of 500,000 or more. The collapse of Huari and Tiahuanacu between 1000 and 1200 led to a period of turmoil that ended with the meteoric rise of the Incas in the 
Cuzco valley around 1400. In less than 100 years, they created the largest state in pre-Columbian America, extending from present-day Argentina to Colombia.
The Incas adopted and improved the agricultural advances of previous highland cultures, and gave special importance to maize production. But the potato was fundamental 
to their empire’s food security: in the Incas’ vast network of state storehouses, potato – especially a freeze-dried potato product called chuño – was one of the main food 
items, used to feed officials, soldiers and corvéé labourers and as an emergency stock after crop failures. The Spanish invasion, in 1532, spelt the end of the Incas – but not 
of the potato. For, throughout Andean history, the potato – in all its forms – was profoundly a “people’s food”, playing a central role the Andean vision of the world (time, for 
example, was measured by how long it took to cook a pot of potatoes). Farmers in some parts of the high Andes still measure land in topo, the area a family needs to grow 
their potato supply – a topo is larger at higher altitudes, where plots need to lie fallow for longer. They classify potatoes not only by species and variety, but by the ecological 
niche where the tubers grow best, and it is not unusual to find four or five species cultivated on a single, small plot of land. Planting tubers remains the most important 
activity of the farming year near Lake Titicaca, where the potato is known as Mama Jatha, or mother of growth. The potato remains the seed of Andean society. It is thought 
that the potato reached Europe in the hands of returning Spanish explorers around 1570. How the potato came to be introduced into Ireland is not precisely known, though 
popular myth credits its introduction at Youghal, Co. Cork by Sir Walter Raleigh. Other anecdotal evidence suggest that the potato was washed up on the shores of Cork 
after the wreck of the Spanish Armada in the area. The Spanish conquistadors first encountered the potato when they arrived in Peru in 1532 in search of gold. In 1565 
Spanish explorer and conqueror, Gonzalo Jiminez de Quesada took the potato to Spain in lieu of the gold he did not find. The potato first arrived to Ireland in 1589. Sir Walter 
Raleigh, British explorer and historian known for his expeditions to the Americas, first brought the potato to Ireland and planted them at his Irish estate at Myrtle Grove, 
Youghal, near Cork, Ireland. Legend has it that he made a gift of the potato plant to Queen Elizabeth I. The local gentry were invited to a royal banquet featuring the potato in 
every course. Unfortunately, the cooks were uneducated in the matter of potatoes, tossed out the lumpy-looking tubers and brought to the royal table a dish of boiled stems 
and leaves (which are poisonous), which promptly made everyone deathly ill. The potatoes were then banned from court. The potato was subsequently brought to territories 
and ports throughout the world by European sailors. It was slow to be adopted by distrustful European farmers, but soon enough it became an important food staple and field 
crop that played a major role in the European 19th century population boom. Unfortunately lack of genetic diversity, due to the very limited number of varieties initially 
introduced, left the crop vulnerable to disease.
The potato, from the perennial Solanum tuberosum, is the world’s fourth largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate 
potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C. In 1536 Spanish  Conquistadors conquered Peru, discovered the flavors of the potato, and carried them to Europe.  Before the end 
of the sixteenth century, families of Basque sailors began to cultivate potatoes along the Biscay coast of northern Spain.  Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland 
in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe. Eventually, agriculturalists in Europe found potatoes 
easier to grow and cultivate than other staple crops, such as wheat and oats. Most importantly, it became known that potatoes contained most of the vitamins needed for 
sustenance, and they could be provided to nearly 10 people for each acre of land cultivated. In the 1840s a major outbreak of potato blight, a plant disease, swept through 
Europe, wiping out the potato crop in many countries. The Irish working class lived largely on potatoes and when the blight reached Ireland, their main staple food 
disappeared. This famine left many poverty-stricken families with no choice but to struggle to survive or emigrate out of Ireland. Over the course of the famine, almost one 
million people died from starvation or disease. Another one million people left Ireland, mostly for Canada and the United States.

While everybody agrees that the birth place of the potato is in South America, the exact place of origin is unknown and reason for the one or other open dispute between 
Chile and Peru. In any case there is scientific evidence that potatoes were domesticated as early as 10,000 years ago in the High Andes of southeastern Peru and 
northwestern Bolivia. The oldest archeological 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. 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. In the course of the centuries potatoes developed to be an important staple food and a main energy 
source for early Peruvian cultures, the Incas and the Spanish conquerors. It is believed that sailors returning from Peru and other countries in the New World brought 
potatoes back with them to Spain and England around 1570. But people were suspicious of this botanical novelty and it took around 100 years until the potato was 
accepted. Once established in Europe, the potato soon became an important food staple and field crop. It helped reduce famines in the 17th and 18th century. Despite being 
first introduced outside the Andes region only four centuries ago, today potatoes have become an integral part of much of the world's cuisine.

Some types:
-Papa Blanca (white potato) 
Numerous different potato varieties are sold under the term Papa Blanca; but be careful, not everything labeled Papa Blanca is a true white potato. Real Papas Blancas are characterized by a light brownish outside and a firm, pale whitish colored flesh. They are great for general cooking and frying and therefore 
probably the most consumed potato in Peru. Papas Blancas are used in all Peruvian dishes where the potatoes should stay more or less firm.

-Papa Amarilla (yeallow potato) 
Under the term Papa Amarilla (Yellow Potato) numerous different varieties are combined. They have, as the name suggests, a yellow or butter colored flesh in common. When cooking Papas Amarillas get very soft and grainy. The Yellow Potato is the best for preparing a creamy and fluffy "pure de papa" (mashed potatoes) or the famous "Causa Limeña"

-Papa Perricholi (Typical Peruvian Potato) 
Invented only around 30 years ago, Papa Perrichilo is one of the bestsellers on Lima's markets. It's similar to the Papa Blanca (white potato); sweet and watery, ideal for frying. As it doesn't change the color or get brownish after peeling the Papa Perricholi is often used in commercial kitchens, restaurants and for industrially made French fries.

-Papa Peruanita (Typical Peruvian Potato) 
The Papa Peruanita has a distinctive bi-color skin and an extraordinary flavor. Boiled in salt water and served peeled or even unpeeled with a little bit of butter or a light yoghurt-herb-sauce its extraordinary flavor unfolds best.

-Papa Huamantanga (Typical Peruvian Potato) 
For most the Papa Huamantanga is the star of the potatoes. Cultivated mostly in the Peruvian Andes, today it has found its way to all good sorted mercados and supermarkets in Lima. The flesh of the Papa Huamantanga has the color of a Papa Blanca (white potato) but the texture of a Papa 
Amarilla (yellow potato). It finds a use in typical stews of the Peruvian highlands or is eaten just boiled.

-Papa Tarmena (Typical Peruvian Potato) 
The skin of Papas Tarmeñas is very similar to the one of the Papa Peruanita, but the inside isn't yellow, more of a creamy color. 
Usually this potato is used in the famous Causa Limeña as it makes the potato mass creamy and fluffy. It's also good baked, roasted or fried and sometimes used in Lomo Saltado.

-Papa Canchan (Typical Peruvian Potato) 
Papa Canchan, also called Papa Rosada (Pink Potato), has a pink, thin skin; the meat is of a pale whitish color like Papas Blancas, therefore probably sometimes sold under this name, but they stay much firmer when cooked and have a better flavor. Papas Canchans find a use in Peruvian stews, soups and the famous Pachamanca. It's also the most common potato variety used for Papa Rellena.

-Camote (sweet potato) 
Even if the Camote is only distantly related to the potato, its English name "Sweet potato" justifies its place here. As engravings and paintings on Moche ceramics proof the Camote is part of the Peruvian cuisine for nearly two thousand years. Today over 2000 varieties are known. Camote is very popular in Peru and replaces in many dishes the "normal" potato.

-Papa Coctel (Typical Peruvian Potato) 
By now the sweet, small Cocktail Potatoes are known around the world. The texture and flavor is similar to Papa Blancas (white 
potatoes), but much more intense. They are great served just boiled or baked, peeled or unpeeled with sauces, but absolute delicious when used for potato salad.

-Papa Purpura (Purple Potato) 
As the name suggests the skin and flesh of Papa Púrpura is of a deep purple, when cooked mostly bluish color. Today referred to by some 
chefs as the "Gem of the Andes", in pre-Hispanic times these potatoes were reserved for the Inca Kings. Purple potatoes can be cooked like any other potato and are very similar in taste to the "normal" ones, probably a little bit more buttery.

-Papa Nativa (Typical Peruvian Potato) 
This potato is sold on Lima's markets under the name of Papa Nativa or Papa Andina even if these names describe a number of different Andean potato varieties. Anyhow in the last few years Papas Nativas became popular in Peru when a big chips producer started selling naturally bi-color native potato chips.

-Papa Huayro (Typical Peruvian Potato) 
Papas Huayro have a great taste. They are very absorptive and therefore ideal as garnish for dishes with plenty of sauce, for the use in stews and soups where they incorporate the flavor or as ingredient in Causa, Papa Rellena or mashed potatoes.

-Papa Negra (black potato) 
Black Potatoes are also known under the name Papa Mariva or Papa Tomasa Negra. The skin is dark brown to black, the inside yellowish. The Papa Negra is floury, slightly sweet with a pleasant taste and finds a use in almost all Peruvian dishes: stews, soups, boiled, fried or mashed. It's an ideal potato for Papa 
Rellena (Peruvian Stuffed Potatoes) as it browns well.

-Papa Tomasa (typical peruvian potato) 
Papa Tomasa aren't widely cultivated in Peru anymore and today can almost only be found in the areas of Huancavelica, Ica and Cañete. The skin is light with purple to black spots and quite tough, the flesh white. Papa Tomasa are often used as ingredient for one of Peru's most popular soups, the Sancochado and are presumably the best potatoes for Peruvian papas fritas (French fries).

-Papa Yungay (typical peruvian potato) 
Papa Yungay are very similar to Papa Amarilla (yellow potato), but don't go off so quickly. Grown in the Peruvian Andes, they can be stored for an extended period of time without losing its flavor. Additionally Papas Yungay have varied uses in the Peruvian kitchen.

-Chuno ( Freeze-Dried-Potato ) 
Chuño is a freeze-dried potato traditionally made by Quechua and Aymara communities of Peru and Bolivia. The production of Chuño dates back to pre-Inca times. After the harvest mostly small potatoes are selected and spread on flat ground. They are left in the open and freeze at night with the low temperatures of the Andes. At day they are exposed to the sun, trampled on by foot to extract the last remaining water in them and remove the skin.

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