Sunday, June 24, 2007

If Humans Have Been Eating Potatoes For 8,000 Years...

...what will we tell the children? Seems like science is always getting in the way of the religious nutjobs.

The humble potato puts on a dazzling display at 13,000 feet above sea level.

Along the frigid spine of the Andes, men and women in bare feet uproot tubers of multiple shapes and colors -- yellow, red, blue, purple, violet, pink with yellow spots, yellow with pink spots; round, oblong, twisted, hooked at the end like walking canes or spiraled like spinning tops.

Their names in Quechua, the ancient language of the Andes, evoke an intimate human connection: ''best black woman,'' ''best red woman,'' ''makes the daughter-in-law cry,'' ''like a deer's white tongue,'' ''red shadow'' and ''like an old bone,'' to name a few.

Respect for the many variations of potatoes is so profound among Aymara's 650 villagers that it was a natural place for the world's agronomists to produce seeds for a gene bank to preserve their diversity. The cold climate also protects against parasites that infest low-lying potato farms.

In their annual harvest this year, the villagers of Aymara gathered more than 2,000 types of potatoes from a 2 1/2-acre field. Scientists from the Lima-based International Potato Center were there to replenish their bank and provide more seeds to Andean communities.

The center was founded in 1971 as a nonprofit, internationally financed research institution to improve production of potatoes and other root crops in developing nations. It maintains the world's largest collection of tubers -- 4,500 types, including 3,000 from Peru. They are kept as tiny plants in test tubes or in cold chambers.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suppose this means that french fries were created in the Andes rather than France. The children are getting very confused.