Monday, June 14, 2010

La Cosecha de Papas

The end of May/early June is when my community harvests potatoes, the main substance farming crop. Although some nearby towns sell their potatoes, almost all of the people in my community grow potatoes for themselves, to eat ALL year in the variety of potato based dishes!

My host family has two small plots of land (technically community land but they bought the use of it to grow potatoes for this year), one on each of the small valley’s surrounding the central hill. We spent the weekend harvesting, one day on one side, the next day on the other side.

We spend the whole day (8:30am until 5:30pm close to when the sunsets) harvesting potatoes. Using a small hatchet, some people were in charge of loosening the soil and sifting out potatoes. Others were left in charge of collecting them. As you can see in the picture, I am now a professional having learned the proper technique to collect potatoes in a cloth tied around the waist. Since we were out in the field all day, we prepared Pachamanca lunch using the freshly harvesting potatoes and meat that we brought with us. Pachamanca utilizes natural resources (stones, hay, and soil) in a process cook the meat in heated pile of stones covered by paper and soil (see picture).

The majority of potato farm land is on the hill, making it a little tricky climbing, harvesting and bringing down the potatoes. We had a great time figuring out how to slide the heavy sacks of potatoes down the hill and carrying them across a small stream to a place where the truck could pick it up. Two men in my host family showed off their strength by individually carrying sacks that the rest of us lifted onto their shoulders. Apparently those sacks hold 100 kilos of potatoes (or 220 pounds!), pretty incredible. My claim of strength is being one of four carrying and lifting it onto their shoulders…not quite as impressive but I did my part.

Finally, having harvested 20 sacks from the farm (14 from the first day and 6 more the next day in the other side), my host mother and sisters have been spending days sorting the potatoes (those fit to store for the year, those that broke a little during harvest and that need to be eaten sooner than later, those for next year´s cultivation and the rest that are only fit to give the pigs). Now I can sleep well be assured that we have an abundance of potatoes to eat during the course of this year.

Pictures for next time since they didn´t upload...

Hasta luego,

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