Chuño

Today’s gratitude stretches back to the first week I moved to this valley in 1992. I saw a flyer for a dance class for women, and there I met several whom I still know today. Though I haven’t seen them much since those first few years, I am grateful for the warm welcome and sense of belonging they offered when I was new here, and grateful to remain connected with them through the web of community and common interests.

I’m grateful for community radio KVNF, and for their gardening show “As the Worm Turns,” and for an episode a couple of months ago when I called in with a potato question. Then Tara, one of those first friends from that dance class, called in with a potato answer. Tara and her husband have been adopted into a community on an island in Peru’s Lake Titicaca. Here is one of my favorite poems of hers about her Taquile family.

I had forgotten about that poem until Tara called into the Worm after I did, and told us about chuño again. Lance reported the next week on the show that he had made some, and I had by then harvested some tiny potatoes and frozen them. I didn’t have a huge potato crop, so I kept adding to the chuño bag in the freezer until I had finished harvesting and then left it until I had time to focus on it. With the garden largely put to bed, tomatillos all processed, and most of the tomatoes and peppers finished, I took out the chuño bag, let them thaw, and then smashed them with a heavy-bottomed glass on a plate.

After a few days in the drying pantry (which hangs in the living room not far from the woodstove from mid-summer through fall), the smashed potatoes were dry enough to put in a jar. Tara says she uses them in soups and other dishes throughout winter, and I look forward to enjoying their particular flavor/texture sensation this winter, maybe after I’ve eaten the last of the fresh potatoes. I’m grateful for living in community through time, for KVNF, for the Worms, for Jeffy the technical heart of KVNF, for Tara, for her cross-cultural horticultural wisdom and her good heart, for potatoes in general and specifically those that grew in my garden this summer, and I’m grateful for learning yet another way to preserve food: chuño.

Chuño dried and ready for the jar this afternoon, a mix of red, russet, and Yukon gold baby potatoes.

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