Let’s learn about the history of Peruvian potatoes, and taste them in a great dish!
Do you know where the potato is originally from? The Andes Mountains in South America! Scientists have found potatoes in the area of Lake Titicaca, where they believe they were farmed as early as 10,000 years ago. The Andes Mountains are the longest mountain range on the planet (5500 mi!) with active volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, and landslides. Can you find the Andes on a map? How do you imagine the climate is in the high mountains, at that distance from the equator? The climate is cold because the air is too thin to hold heat, and the conditions are harsh at the high altitudes.
Potatoes grew well despite the conditions and over many years, potatoes became one of the most important foods in early Peruvian culture. In fact, there are close to 4000 varieties of potatoes in Peru! Each of the different sizes, shapes, colors, skin, texture, and pulp change the taste slightly and allow the different potatoes to be used in distinct recipes.
When the Spaniards came, they borrowed the name “papa” (the Quechua word for “tuber”) and brought back potatoes to Spain and England around 1570. It took almost a century for this bizarre new food to be accepted, but eventually Europe accepted it and it became so important that it helped to reduce famines in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today potatoes are found around the world!
The potato was part of what is called the “Columbian Exchange:” following the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Columbian Exchange is the exchange of plants, animals, culture, people, ideas, and diseases between the Eastern and Western hemispheres (see this great map of the Columbian Exchange!).
Recipe: Peruvian Potatoes with Ocopa Sauce
This ocopa sauce served with boiled or roasted Peruvian potatoes is typical in Arequipa, in Southern Peru. There are many different versions of this recipe, but this recipe was shared with me by Elvia Alma, who was raised in Chincheros, Apurímac.
Gather your ingredients:
black mint/ huacatay
white cheese/ queso blanco
roasted peanuts/ mani tostado
olive oil/ aceite olivo
Goya adobo seasoning
boiled or roasted yellow or white potatoes with salt and pepper
whole, boiled eggs
Other recipes also include sautéed onions and garlic, evaporated milk, and another common ingredient are saltine crackers! (to thicken if you use the recipe with evaporated milk). If you cannot get an ingredient, make a substitution:). No worries!
To Make the Peruvian Potatoes:
1. Prepare your Peruvian potatoes either by boiling or roasting. Boil your eggs in cold water for 12 minutes (then rinse in cold water).
2. Add jalapeño (optional- I usually remove seeds/veins for my kids), black mint/ huacatay, white cheese (queso blanco), roasted peanuts (mani tostado), olive oil (aceite olivo), and 1 T of Goya adobo seasoning to blender and pureé until smooth. Add salt as needed.
3. Slice the potatoes into small rounds. Prepare on a plate: potatoes, then the sauce, and then the garnishes of sliced hard boiled eggs and olives.