Aug 7 2012

Drying potatoes (chuño) in Bolivia

The wisdom and resourcefulness of the families in our sponsorship program never cease to amaze us!

Dehydrating potatoes (chuños) in Bolivia

Dario places chuño, which are dehydrated Andean potatoes, on the ground to dry them.

In just one example, sponsored friends and their families in Bolivia often use chuño, a ubiquitous form of dehydrated Andean potato, to supplement the volume and caloric value of their diets.

Very few crops do well in the high-altitude, arid conditions of the high Andean plateau. But potatoes are one of the crops still vigorously cultivated generation after generation.

Dario is the widowed father of Cristian and Giovana, who are both sponsored in the CFCA Hope for a Family program.

Dario and his family make their humble home against the expansive, deep-blue backdrop of legendary Lake Titicaca.

Most of the family’s income is seasonal, and they must overcome difficulties to make ends meet.

One way Dario provides for his family is to help his neighbor grow potatoes. In return he gets to keep some of them.

House near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia

The building where Dario and his family live.

During the season where the highs are in the 40s and the lows are near or below freezing, Dario and his family take advantage of the cold weather to dehydrate the potatoes so they don’t rot, preserving them for other seasons throughout the year.

He spreads them out on the ground over colorful tarps to dry under the bright sun and cool temperatures.

Daily he and his children will go out and stomp on the potatoes with their bare feet to squeeze the moisture out of them.

(The word “chuÒo” is a common term for barefoot, which probably alludes to this procedure of drying the potatoes.)

After stomping on the potatoes for several minutes, Dario and his children turn the potatoes over and stomp on them again before leaving them to dry in the crisp, cold Andean climate for the next day.

They will continue this process for a few weeks until the potatoes are fully dried and ready to be stored.

CFCA family in Bolivia

From left are Giovana, Cristian and the children’s father, Dario. Giovana and Cristian are sponsored through CFCA.

People soak dried chuño overnight, then boil them in water. Chuño can be added to soups, stews, mixed in with rice or eaten as is.

Amid poverty and other challenges, Dario’s resourcefulness and wisdom shine through.

He watches the seasons to note when the potatoes should grow and when they should be harvested.

On the first full moon in October, Dario plants the potatoes before nightfall. In February or March, he harvests the potatoes.

And with the help of cold winter temperatures in May through August, he turns the potatoes into chuÒo, which will be stored and later nourish his family when such bounty is far scarcer.

“Everything,” he says, “has its time.”

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