The humble potato makes its appearance in numerous different ways around the world. But in South America they have a most peculiar way of preserving them that dates back thousands of years.
Chuno are bitter potatoes that have a particularly long preparation time, in fact it is said that it takes about 50 days to make really good quality chuno. Covering parts of Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile they are known by various names including chuno, tunta and moraya. The process begins with small potatoes being selected and laid out on the ground to be subjected to the freezing cold frosty nights of the altiplano at the widest part of the Andes. Then once the warm morning sunshine rays shine down on them they are trampled by foot to remove their skins and whatever water remains. This takes place for about 3 days and nights as they are left out for another couple of freezing nights before finally being allowed to dry out in the sun.
But that process only produces black chuno-to produce white chuno a slightly different method is required. In Peru, the frozen potatoes that have been left out over night are collected and taken to the river to be submerged in cages for up to 30 days, they are then taken to be frozen for one more night before being allowed to sit in the sun for a week during the days to dry and turn a brilliant white.
These freeze-dried potatoes, reputedly perfected by the Incas, are rock hard and need to be soaked overnight before cooking. Besides the usual soups and stews that contain the dried potatoes there is Chuno Puty which is a side dish consisting of a mixture of two scrambled eggs, one cup of cheese and a pound of cooked chuno. Chuno flour is also produced in South America and is even used to make sweet desserts.
Chuno can be stored in a dark place and still retain their vitamins and nutrients, in fact it is claimed that they are still healthy and edible ten years on. But would anyone want to eat a potato that was actually grown in the last decade?
Pictures courtesy of flickr - swiatoslaw wojtkowiak, 10b travelling, laboratio en movimento and betsy power.