Printer Friendly


On the wind-whipped shores of Lake Titicaca, pan pipes sigh a wistful tribute to Pacha Mama, the Earth Mother, as Aymara Indians slice open small potatoes and stuff them with coca leaves. Planted first, the impregnated potatoes will guarantee a good harvest. For insurance, the Aymara also plant a cousin of a wild species hardy enough to sprout from the edges of permanent snowbanks at nearly 14,000 feet.

Andean Indians have cultivated Potatoes for 8,000 years, and have developed a staggering array of varieties--perhaps one for every microenvironment tucked away in a valley or hugging a terraced hillside between northern Argentina and Venezuela. South American potatoes can be as small as grapes or as large as grapefruits, and come in every color from white, Yellow, orange, pink and red, to purple, blue, green, brown and black. Their shapes range from round to spiral, their skins from smooth to gnarly, their textures from nutty to watery, their flavors from bland to bitter.

The sweet potato, despite its name, is unrelated to the common potato. Europeans first encountered the sugary orange tuber in the 15th century on the island of Hispaniola, where the Taino Indians called it batata. The Portuguese retained the name, but the Spanish corrupted it to patata, and the English to potato. When the first common potato arrived in Europe half a century later, the English assumed from the tuber's appearance that it was kin to the sweet potato and named it accordingly. The Spanish adopted the Quechua name, papa.

For nearly two hundred years after the common potato's arrival in the United States, North Americans had to content themselves with only a few types--all white. But entrepreneurs have recently introduced purple and yellow varieties, and more may soon appear on the shelves of U.S. markets.

Peruvians, who have hundreds of options, prefer the yellow limenas, which make superb platforms for sauces from ingredients as diverse as peanuts and pigeons. Best is a regal blend of ground nuts, cheese, and chilies from the city of Arequipa.


8 yellow or new potatoes

1/2 cup peanut oil

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced 1-1/2 cups peanuts (or 6 ounces walnuts) 1-1/2 cups milk

1 cup crumbled queso fresco (or

grated Munster cheese)

1/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon, if using


2-3 teaspoons seeded and chopped

fresh chilies

8 leaves Boston or Romaine lettuce

8 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise

16 black olives

Boil the potatoes until they are tender, then drain thoroughly. Peel them just before serving. Leave them whole, or slice them to allow the sauce to coat them more evenly.

Heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic until they are soft. Grind the nuts for 30 seconds in a food Processor. Add the milk, cheese, salt, chilies, onion, garlic and oil, and puree at high speed for about a minute, to a consistency like that of thick mayonnaise.

Serve on individual plates, placing each potato on a lettuce leaf and dressing it with about 1/2 cup of sauce. Garnish with olives and hard-boiled eggs.

Bolivians and Colombians favor the papa criolla. This small, firm, yellow fleshed potato stars in Colombia's tomato-sauced Papas Chorreadas, a spirited first course, or, with salad, a light meal.


8 yellow or new potatoes

1 tablespoon lard

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 scallions cut into 1-inch lengths

2 or 3 habanero chilies, seeded and

minced (optional)

3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and

chopped (or 2 cups canned Italian

plum tomatoes) 2/3 cup heavy cream

pinch of ground cumin (optional) 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)

1 teaspoon minced cilantro (fresh

coriander) (optional)

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup crumbled queso blanco (or

grated Munster cheese)

Boil the potatoes until they are tender Drain well and peel just before serving. Slice them or leave whole.

Melt the butter and lard in a heavy frying pan. Add the scallions and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are transparent. Add the chilies and the tomatoes, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream, cumin, oregano, cilantro, salt, and pepper.

Stirring constantly, add the cheese. As soon as the cheese begins to melt, pour the sauce over the potatoes and serve immediately.

Colombians also use papas criollas in soups, notably the creamy potato-and-chicken Ajiaco, served with avocado slices and capers. Ecuadorians meld potatoes with cheese in Locro, their national soup. Paraguayans eat potato-rich stews to warm up chilly days.

Many of the potatoes in Andean soups and stews are the freeze-dried sort known as chunos. Long before instant or frozen potatoes appeared on North American tables, Andean Indians had been removing the water from potatoes by repeatedly freezing, thawing, and crushing them to create a lightweight staple food with a long shelflife. Workers in the silver mines of Potose subsisted on chunos, and the Incas stockpiled them for lean seasons. The freeze-drying process, still in use today, removes the bitterness from potatoes that would otherwise be unfit for human consumption.

Europeans and North Americans at first viewed even the tastiest potato as little more than animal fodder. Grow the potatoes "near the hog-pens," advised the 19th-century Farmer's Manual, "as a convenience towards feeding the hogs."

Although potatoes are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, they also contain solanine, a poison. The concentrations today are too low to harm anyone, but 16th- and 17th-century potatoes sometimes harbored enough to cause skin rashes, which sparked rumors that potatoes caused leprosy.

Presbyterian ministers in Scotland and orthodox sects in Russia condemn potatoes because the Bible neglected to mention them. Eventually, however, the potato won converts. Not only was it filling and nutritious, but it grew in poor soils with little care, matured quickly, stored well,. and required no milling or processing before it could be eaten. Moreover, safe below ground, potatoes survived wars and bad weather better than most cultivated plants. "Miracle crops," French historian Fernand Braudel called them.

And, if somewhat bland in their natural state, potatoes are easily enlivened. In addition to being slathered with sauces or simmered in soups and stews, the hardy tubers can be boiled and mashed, roasted with game, or baked whole and topped with sour cream and chives. Fried potatoes range from the ubiquitous French fries to home fries, hash browns, and potato pancakes.

Ecuadorians fry llapingachos, potato croquettes, and serve them with grilled meat, fish or poultry, or with lettuce, tomato and avocado slices. With peanut sauce and eggs, they make a dandy breakfast.


3 pounds yellow or new potatoes,

peeled and quartered 3 cups chopped onion 3 cups crumbled queso blanco (or

grated Munster cheese) 6 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper, to taste

land for frying 8 fried or poached eggs (optional)

Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are soft. Drain thoroughly, and put the potatoes through a ricer or mash them to a smooth consistency. (Do not use an electric mixer or food processor unless you like gummy potatoes.) Melt the butter in a frying pan and saute the onions until they are transparent. Add the onions and the cheese to the potatoes and mix well.

Shape the potatoes into 16 balls, then flatten each ball into a patty about an inch thick. (If you prefer, you may stuff the balls with cheese, rather than mixing it in.) Place the patties between sheets of waxed paper on a tray and chill in the refrigerator for two hours (or as long as overnight).

Heat the lard in a large frying pan and saute the potato patties until they are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Top with Salsa de Mani and, if you wish, fried or poached eggs.


3 tablespoons lard or oil

3 tablespoons annatto (achiote) (optional

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and

chopped (or 2 cups canned Italian

plum tomatoes) 1/4 cup ground peanuts (or 3 tablespoon

peanut butter)

Add the annatto to the lard and heat it in a small saucepan until the lard turns a deep orange, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, strain out the annatto seeds, and discard them.

Return the oil to the pan and add the onion and garlic. When the onion is soft, add the tomato and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the ground peanuts or peanut butter, and add salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Thin the sauce with tomato juice or water, if necessary, and cook for another minute. Spoon the sauce onto the llapingachos just before serving them.

In the United States, we mash potatoes with butter and milk, and let it go at that. In Latin America, the pure is just the beginning. Bolivians stir in whipped cream for special occasions. Chileans add pumpkin and fried rice. Argentines make potato dumplings known as noquis. Brazilians roll shrimp into mashed potatoes. Central Americans stuff them with cheese or meat in papusas. Peruvians turn pure into everything from sweet Mana de Papa to spicy causa, a warm potato salad.

Potatoes continue to diversify, as agronomists attempt to breed new varieties that will eat insects or trap pests with organic glues. If these experiments succeed, the potato will truly be a miracle crop.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Organization of American States
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:includes recipes
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Previous Article:Nicaragua turns out to vote.
Next Article:Marimba goes mainstream.

Related Articles
A new age for the ancient potato.
The perfect baked potato: don't wrap them or they will dry out. (vegan quick meals).
Sweet and vegan.
Creatividad y reduccion de gastos: una combinacion nacida para el exito.
On the Side: More Than 100 Recipes for Sides, Salads, and Condiments That Make the Meal.
Simple, Fresh, Delicious.
New face of children's meal times.
Squash season.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters