Chuño. Image: Luis Fernandez Shutterstock
Andean farmers have the secret for a potato to last 20 years. They use the chuño method and as a result they get a potato that can last for many years.
Over time, Andean farmers have developed ways of farming that are resistant to droughts and frost. In this way, with these methods, crops can be planted at more than 3,800 meters above sea level.
Bitter potatoes are part of these species. Generally this type of potatoes adapt very well to the high Andean areas.
Bitter potatoes, chuño.
First of all, these potatoes have a higher content of glycoalkaloids, which is why they taste bitter. It is from these bitter potatoes that the chuño blanco or moraya is made.
Currently there is a growing demand for chuño, so it has begun to make also with native varieties. In addition, improved varieties that come from agricultural research are used. Chuño is a postharvest desiccation method, through it it is possible to preserve the tuber for many years. It is a special technique of processing potatoes both in the southern highlands of Peru and in Bolivia.
How the white chuño is made.
Regarding the way to obtain the white chuño, it is done through natural dehydration.
In this way , the climate of the high Andean mountains is used, which during the winter of the southern hemisphere has a marked difference between day and night. In addition to intense solar radiation.
During the night the tubers are subjected to cycles of freezing and sunning. On the other hand, they are covered with abundant straw between 5 and 8 hours a day to prevent them from burning.
Then they are soaked in river water for 20 to 30 days to eliminate the glycoalkaloids. After this time, the tubers are removed from the water for tamping and removing excess water.
In this way, in each cycle the potato loses water until, at the end, the heat and some pressing on foot finish the job.
Finally they are exposed to the sun between 5 and 8 more days. Then, rub them with the hands to peel them completely, obtaining as a result their final white appearance.
This whole process takes approximately 50 days. The women select, spread, clean and care for the tubers.
The black chuño.
It is another variety of chuño, this is made with the small tubers of native and improved potatoes. It is a shorter process and requires, therefore, less care.
To obtain the characteristic black color, it is not soaked in river water, in addition to this it is exposed only between 5 and 10 days. It is not protected, and is subjected to night frosts and solar radiation.
In this way, the tubers can be kept for years, without losing their qualities. They also have little weight and are easy to transport.
In particular, these two products add value to potato production in the highlands. It also constitutes a daily food in the diet of the inhabitants of the high areas of Peru and Bolivia.
During the winter in these areas there is no fresh food. Thanks to this method, the chuño has long been a guarantee of feeding at 3,500 meters of altitude.
Fortunately, it is a food rich in calcium and iron. It also helps prevent gastritis and ulcers, because the starch protects the walls of the stomach.