Estela Mamani Nayhua: Potatoes as a way of life

Estela Mamani Nayhua – Chala Pampacorral, Cuzco, Peru

Women in my community are in charge of selecting seed potatoes. We prefer the ones with the colored flesh. We recently found out that these types of potatoes are good for our health. Native potatoes are more resistant to late blight, sun, and frost (than commercial varieties).

We’ve learned to separate our different native potato varieties with a row of mashua (an Andean tuber). In this way if we plant a potato that has a black flesh and some that we harvest are sort of white, we have a reference for what it should look like. This lets us know which potatoes to select for seed. We know what color it should be, so we know how to look for healthy potatoes without any disease.

You can use potatoes to paint your nails, your mouth, your eyes, because some varieties have a natural dye to them.  The Puka Chapin potato is like a flower, and  Llana Chapin potato is lighter in color. These two varieties make the best cosmetics. My children have even experimented using it as paint. They now paint pictures on paper with their potatoes.

Without potatoes, there is no life, because where I live, potatoes are the only thing that grows.

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