We went to the sixth gastronomic fair called “Mistura” in Lima last week, and took the opportunity to visit the Peruvian partners of the IssAndes Project, a project undertaken by CIP together with the European Union, which has been promoting innovation for food security and sovereignty in the Andes since 2011. We found dynamic teams, focused not only on promoting native potatoes, but also on opening up opportunities for the smallholder farmers.
As soon as we entered the Big Market, where the typical products of the different regions of Peru are displayed, we could see that the native potato stands were among the most popular. The native potato has become a “gourmet” product, which draws the attention of several famous chefs because of its versatility, its colors, and different shapes, and it is now included on the menus of the most highly appreciated restaurants in Lima. For the CIP IssAndes Project, which, after the INCOPA Project, promotes native potatoes and their consumption, it is a great satisfaction to see the successful work of its partners.
“We’ve been working for more than ten years promoting native potatoes,” proudly explains Oscar Delgado, from CAPAC Perú. “We didn’t only start when it got fashionable”, he adds, “And several restaurants have been trusting us for years, because we supply them with high quality potatoes. We supply them permanently, because we have storehouses in Lima that enable us to do this.”
Oscar Delgado – CAPAC Peru
The varieties displayed on the CAPAC stand, from ‘Yawar Huaycco’ to ‘Sangre de Toro’ potatoes, illustrate the immense diversity to be found in the Andes. “These days, the most attractive potato is the Amachi, because of its high content of phenolic compounds, that is antioxidants. La Leona used to be a very popular variety, but now Amachi is the star,” Oscar assures us.
Over the past two years, CAPAC has delivered 25 new varieties to CIP for nutritional analysis. “We work in partnership with key stakeholders: CIP, the University of San Marcos, culinary schools, producer associations . . . we have relationships of trust. That is of the utmost importance for helping the small-scale producers who face challenges such as the distance they may be from the market. We mustn’t forget that the potatoes we are showing are produced at elevations of 3,800 to 4,000 meters above sea level … Most of the small-scale producers, who are the custodians of the diversity of the potatoes, receive a very low price for their production. We make sure they are paid a fair price,” he explains.
“We’ve had to stop working with restaurants that didn’t want to pay the proposed price. It’s an awkward subject. We only carry on working with those who do respect the product and the producer,” he says.
In recent years, CAPAC Perú has also been promoting technical standards to protect the producers, such as a maximum weight of 50 kg for the sacks, so that the people who carry them will not damage their spine.
Opposite the much visited stand of CAPAC, another attraction has become popular: tasting “papa sour” and the new potato chips made of native potatoes. The Association for Sustainable Development of Peru (ADERS) —another important partner of IssAndes— has brought Guillermo Osorio Romero to Mistura; he is a well known barman and creator of “papa sour”, a cocktail made with pisco – Peru’s national liquor –, lemon juice, soursop juice, ice … and native potato, which gives it a unique color and additional nutrients.
Beside this stall, several producers from the major potato-growing areas of Peru – Huancavelica, Cajamarca, Huánuco, Pasco, and Junín – present the chips made with native potatoes. The varieties are indicated clearly so that the visitors can note the difference: Qoqerani chips, Tumbay chips, Puma Maki chips, Piña chips… etc.
Celfia Obregón Ramírez, the dynamic director of ADERS and tireless promoter of native potatoes, explains that this is a new project directly involving the small producers. “We believe there is a market for the chips made from native potatoes, clearly promoting certain varieties. We want to highlight the names of those varieties and promote a natural product that is much tastier than the classic chips and completely natural.”
ADERS is consolidating a company, ADERSCORP, to deal with the commercial side. The producers are responsible for the manufacturing, taking their production directly to the processing plant.
Celfia tells us that she went with the producers to deliver the potatoes to the processing plants. When they came back from picking up the processed product, one of the producers commented: “We left our potatoes here in sacks, now we are taking them back all elegant in boxes.” For many, who were elected by their communities to go to the Mistura fair, this was their first trip to the capital. “They are very happy and proud to be here showing their products,” remarked Celfia.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the producers themselves benefit from the fruit of their labor, a fruit that we can all enjoy. It is only logical that they should be paid a fair price,” she insists. “We are going to launch our chips next month. We hope they will be well received in Peru and that they could perhaps be sent to foreign markets eventually,” she adds.
Association for Sustainable Development of Peru (ADERS)
A couple of Belgian journalists who had come from Europe especially to visit Mistura really like the papa sour. “We were curious to visit Mistura, which has made a name for itself in the world of gastronomy,” they explain. “After what we have seen here, we would like to get to know the country more and its culinary richness. How creative they are with the potatoes! Well, we have to admit that the diversity is impressive, in colors and in flavors. I’ve been told there are more than 3,000 varieties. In Belgium, we have the Bintje, the Vitelotte, the Nicola, the Charlotte… and I think that’s all!”
And as if all that were not enough, the next stall displays original jewels made with potato skin and potato flowers, a highly creative and ecological proposal. It seems that the success story of the native potatoes is only just starting.
Text: Véronique Durroux-Malpartida. Photos: Ana María Vela