News August 2021, North America, Varieties

11,000-year-old solution to modern problem: Ancient potato could thrive in changing climate

With drought a persistent problem in the Southwest, Hopi/Tewa seed keeper Valerie Nuvayestewa has eagerly joined the effort to bring back an Indigenous superfood that her ancestors cultivated for 11,000 years. The ‘Four Corners Potato‘ can grow under dry conditions and provides triple the protein and twice the calcium of red organic potatoes, reports Alastair Lee Bitsóí in this article for Yale Climate Connections.

Scientists and leaders of Indigenous communities in the region have launched a drive to reintroduce the drought-resistant tuber, known scientifically as the Solanum jamesii, as a possible food solution for people hit by impacts of climate change. University of Utah scientists and Indigenous food activists say the spud can stay dormant for years under dry conditions, still offering nutritional benefits like iron and zinc to humans.

“I have never grown the Four Corner Potato before, so this is going to be a challenge as I’m learning as I grow,” Nuvayestewa said. “I’ve grown other varieties of potatoes, but the Four Corners Potato is different and does not like too much moisture,” she said.

Nuvayestewa’s introduction to the Four Corners potato came this spring, when the nonprofit Utah Diné Bikéyah’s Traditional Foods Program invited her to be part of its Potato Cultivation Project. In recent years, researchers discovered evidence that the potato was grown in Utah thousands of years before potatoes were thought to have been brought to North America from the Andes.

Source: Yale Climate Connections. Read the full story here
Photo: Cynthia Wilson (Diné), director of Utah Diné Bikéyah Traditional Foods Program, holds potatoes that have grown in Utah for more than 11,000 years. (Photo credit: Dave Showalter)
Author: Alastair Lee Bitsóí is Diné from Naschitti, Navajo Nation, New Mexico.

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