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A Year for Hidden Treasures

Potatoes are serious business. First cultivated by the Incas over 6,000 years ago, potatoes found Europe in the 16th century. Spanish explorers found the potato in its native Andes region, a treasure that would soon spread throughout the globe.

Today, the potato produces more nutritious food more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop. Up to 85 percent of the plant is edible human food, compared to around 50% in cereals. In an age of food shortages and troubled time for farming, this is good news.

Last fall, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Peru’s proposal to focus world attention on the importance of the potatoes role if fighting world hunger and poverty, and also to examine the agriculture methods that create threats to the environment. The result: the UN declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato.

Working closely with the UN is Centro Internacional de la Papa, whose work is strongly influenced by humanitarian goals, particularly combating famine.

On the science side, the Centro has largest collection of potato biodiversity in the world and pursues research for agricultural sustainability and protective management of natural resources in the Andes region.

Over 28 countries worldwide are participating in the festivities. Here in Toronto, the Peruvian-Canadian Camber of Commerce joined forces with Doña Luz Restaurant, on St. Clair Avenue West, for a recipe competition honouring the potato. I was honoured to be asked to be one of the judges, which made me very happy.

Here’s how the rest of the world is celebrating the potato

Here’s the Centro and it’s venerable work

Here’s the competition mapped out


Some of the winners recipe dishes at Doña Luz
Yours in good food


Potato factoid:

In October, 1995, the potato become the first vegetable to be grown in space, a joint effort by NASA and the University of Wisconsin. The goal of the new technology was to be able to feed astronauts on long space voyages and to eventually feed future colonies in space.

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*Spanish for: "Mmm. Wow. That's good!"