Why did it take me 8 months into the year to find out that 2008 is The International Year of the Potato.
All that thanks to Peru, a country that might count as many varieties of potatoes as France counts cheeses.
I think they have an ongoing dispute with one of their neighbors as to who is the first potato so to speak.
This argument might rival in intensity with the Argentine vs Uruguay battle as to which country is the birthplace of Carlos Gardel.
From the official International Year of the Potato website, I learned that In order to preserve its heritage Peru has created a National Register of Local Varieties.
In Andean Heritage, we are told that the roots of this food staple for many people the world over can be traced some "8,000 years ago near Lake Titicaca, which sits at 3,800 m (12,500 ft)
above sea level in the Andes mountain range of South America, on the
border between Bolivia and Peru. There, research indicates, communities
of hunters and gatherers who had first entered the South American
continent at least 7,000 years before began domesticating wild potato
plants that grew around the lake in abundance".
History has it as they write in Dawn of Agriculture that "Incan myths relate that the Creator, Viracocha, caused the sun, moon and stars to emerge from Lake Titicaca. He also created agriculture when he sent his two sons to the human realm to study and classify the plants that grew there. They taught the people how to sow crops and how to use them so that they would never lack food".
While reading these notes, I realized that my comparison between the number of potatoes and cheeses was off.
They say that as many as 200 species of wild potatoes can be found in the Americas but some 5,000 potato varieties are still grown in the Andes.
One example is the Atahualpa (from Peru) pictured above (from the official site).
You can check this List of Events taking place around the world from September to December to celebrate the Potato.
First on the list is La papa, pan del mundo Andino (Potato: Bread of the Andean world) at the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru in Lima.