The Spud Diaries – Entry 6 – The Power of Potatoes

The Spud Diaries – Entry 6 – The Power of Potatoes


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SPUDRIFFIC: One potato, two potato, three potato... heaps. Peru boasts some 4000 different potato varieties in many wonderful and weird shapes.

SPUDRIFFIC: One potato, two potato, three potato... heaps. Peru boasts some 4000 different potato varieties in many wonderful and weird shapes.

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There is a world of research and little known benefits to the humble potato.

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THE skill of taxi drivers in Peru is quite exceptional. The ability to not only navigate the free-flow of vehicles with one hand while frequently operating the horn is astonishing.

It is obvious that Australians are quite timid car horn users. In Peru, it's like using your blinkers. Come to think of it, it may very well be in place of using blinkers.

I am lucky enough to hitch a ride with two Chinese researchers who are staying at the same accommodation as me, both of whom speak English which is a bonus as my Spanish-Mandarin is non-existent.

The Spud Diaries - Video 3 - Drive Time

A day spent at the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Lima is an eye-opener. From the various interviews carried out with researchers and discussions with staff, it is clear they are working on a bigger picture as opposed to simply doing research for research's sake.

Chiselled down, it's largely about the noble pursuit of feeding more people around the world. It's this, not salaries nor titles or prestige, which seems to drive the workers here.

Added to that is a real push to see the research implemented on the ground by farmers.

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With rising frustrations in Australia in recent years over a lack of pull-through between researcher and on-farm practicalities, it is a refreshing approach.

I see more potato varieties than I ever imagined. They come in all shapes, sizes, flavours and health benefits.

I'm told about arduous field trips to the Andes to find rare, undiscovered and rediscovered potato varieties, all in the name of preserving these valuable crops and tapping into their potential. 

One variety of tuber, maca, is known as the Peruvian Viagra. The story goes that a horse/donkey breeder noticed his stock becoming less reproductive, while others in the Peruvian highlands were galloping ahead.

They figured out it was the fact the stock were feeding on this naturally growing plant.

I am then told about an "anti-Viagara" plant (related to the honeysuckle I believe) and the tale that this was fed to army soldiers prior to going off to war so they could focus on the task at hand and not be distracted.

You can almost see the light bulbs coming on over the heads of PR and marketing types.

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  • Ashley Walmsley travelled to Peru with assistance from the Crawford Fund and with financial support from DFAT Council on Australia Latin America Relations.​ 
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