Internat ional Year of the Potato Here I am, early in the morning, high up in the Andes, in the centre of the spiritual origin of our potato. The Papa, as the potato is called in the Peruvian language, has grown here for many tens of thousands of years. The mountains and the mist are still shrouding the riches of the wild potato varieties, but not for long and, on the heels of the Incas, I’ll be on my way to the home ground of one of the most important crops in the world. A brief report of my quest for the origin of the potato. On the he It took more than a day’s walk and two mountain passes before we came across the first Papas. Between the mists of the highest mountain tops in the Peruvian Andes we found a wealth of potato varieties just alongside the road. No clinker or tar roads, but narrow paved paths that the Incas built many centuries ago so they could reach the holy city of Machu Pichu. It is rough and difficult to reach the top, but so absolutely worth it. Here, at approximately 4,000 metres, thousands and thousands of wild potato varieties grow. With my already high heartbeat in the rarefied mountain air, I go even faster when the first purple flowers come into view. It is absolutely sensational to be faced with these ancestors of the plant about which you are allowed to write every month as a food lover and a journalist. Inspiring search The end of my hike through the Andes is the holy Inca city of Machu Pichu. To reach this town, the Incas built more than 40,000 kilometres of tracks through the Andes. These tracks, which I use during my trip, are also known as the Inca Trail, of which I only use one thousandth, fortunately. In the mountains, along this route, each crop has its own optimal height at which it can be cultivated. The potatoes are grown the highest. The enormous climate change of the past fifty years has even meant that the potato has climbed up to over 4,000 metres. Firstly, the temperature at lower ‘origin’ heights has risen 26 Potato World 2009 • number 1 Pagina 25

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