It’s seven o’clock in the morning on Bolivia’s altiplano, and through the morning fog is visible an uneven carpet of thousands of potatoes, spread out in front of a water tank near a house. It’s a common sight at farms in Machacamarca, a small village to the south of La Paz.
“This is how we make chuno,” says Prudencia Huanca, 52, referring to a traditional dehydration practice which allows potatoes to be eaten decades after they are dug up – without losing their nutritional properties. Huanca and her husband Egberto Mamani, 56, produce chuno from the potatoes they grow on a small piece of land about an hour from the capital.
Chuno comes from the indigenous Aymara word ch’unu. It is also practiced in Peru, but its origins are uncertain.
Before the pandemic, this farming couple worked in tourism in La Paz, but that work dried up when restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19 were imposed. So they returned to their home village to take up a family tradition. “I still have my parents’ chuno. They died more than 20 years ago but (the chuno) remains preserved,” said Mamani.
Archeologist Jedu Sagarnaga believes this conservation method was developed “probably during the Formative Period” from around 2,000 to 200 BC. It may be even older, as 2017 tests on chuno dug up in Peru showed it was more than 5,000 years old.
Source: France24/AFP. Read the full article here
Photo: A woman stomps on potatoes to begin the dehydration process of chuno in Machacamarca, Bolivia, on June 30, 2021. Courtesy Aizar Raldes, AFP