Brisayda Sicus Palomino: Our thoughts are always with our potatoes

Brisayda Sicus Palomino – Sacaca community, Cuzco, Peru

Our grandparents had only one way of preparing potatoes: they would boil them. With training, we’ve been able to vary the potato dishes we make and accompany them with other products we find in our region. I know how to make potato pie, salads, but the pizza is my favorite. To make it we use a tuber that is related to potatoes.  The food we give our children helps them study better. Little by little, we’re replacing pasta and rice with native products.

When my son gets a fever, I use a type of native potato to treat him. I squeeze the juice into his mouth. It tastes very bitter, but it takes away his fever. The plants we use nourish us, they also heal us. You can use potato for kidney stones, stomach aches. We cure ourselves with what we eat.

Potatoes are very important to us, almost as if they were our children or our relatives. We have to care for them. Our thoughts are always with our potatoes. In February we have to prepare the land. Then after we plant, we start thinking about what needs to be done to care for our plants. After the harvest, we need to separate potatoes for planting, to make chuño (a type of freeze-dried potato), and for our family’s nourishment.

The climate is changing. Potatoes do not tolerate heat. The rains aren’t normal. Some rains bring diseases like llanasoqra (a type of potato blight), which affects potato leaves. It turns them black and dries them up, and the potato doesn’t grow right. The disease gets into the stem, and the potato isn’t the same. The flavor is different. We can use those potatoes to make chuño, but its use as seed is not recommended.