While everybody agrees that the birthplace 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. 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. They made the oldest archeological findings close to 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, ancient cultures must have spent more 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 primary energy source for early Peruvian cultures, the Incas and the Spanish conquerors. We believe 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 suspected this botanical novelty, and it took around 100 years until they accepted the potato. 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.
In Peru you can find over 3800 varieties of potatoes. They differ in size, shape, color, skin, pulp, texture and of course in their taste, but all have their place in the Peruvian cuisine.
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 ...
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. They grow at an altitude between 2800 m and 3800 m above sea level.
Invented only around 30 years ago, Papa Perrichilo - named after the nickname of the Lima based stage actress Michaela Villegas - is one of the bestsellers on Lima's markets. It's similar to the Papa Blanca (white potato); sweet and watery, ideal for frying.
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.
For most the Papa Huamantanga, also known as Juito Rojo is the star of the potatoes. Cultivated mostly in the Peruvian Andes in the regions of Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Junin, Apurimac, Cerro de Pasco, Huanuco, Ancash, Cusco and Lima at an altitude between 3700 m and 4700 m above sea level, today it has found its way to all good sorted mercados an...
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.
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.
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 "no...
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, pro...
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