...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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