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papas de canarias

The potatoes of Anaga already have their world day

Potatoes have had a privileged refuge in the Anaga Massif since the 18th century. There are documents that certify its long and fruitful history in the fertile lands of Santa Cruz, such as the epistolary exchange between the butler of the Hacienda Las Palmas, in Anaga, and the owner of the property, Mr. Silvestre Izquierdo. In those letters it is clear that already in 1772 “papas moradas” were grown in this corner of the island, as it is still done today, that potatoes have earned the prominent place they deserve in the Canarian gastronomy.

Potatoes are the treasure of the rich and diverse island cuisine. Originally from the Andean region of South America, the islands were the gateway to Europe in the 16th century. They were brought by the conquistadors as booty from the New World, but the plant did not adapt well except in the archipelago, where it thrived with its volcanic soils, fair hours of sunshine and gentle trade breezes.

That is why in the Canary Islands there are different varieties of tubers than in the rest of the continent. According to documentary evidence, its cultivation began in a high area in the north of Tenerife, exactly 400 years ago. The ‘Diccionario de Historia Natural de las Islas Canarias’, by Viera y Clavijo, dates that antecedent in 1622, and places it with such precision that it is even known which was the plot of land in the town of Icod el Alto (municipality of Los Realejos) where those first potatoes were planted.

At the end of August of this year, the last harvest of this gastronomic delicacy of limited production was harvested throughout the Anaga Rural Park and, specifically, at Hacienda Las Palmas, which is accessed from Benijos by a dirt road from the settlement of El Draguillo. The old or ‘bonitas’ potatoes grow underground for six months, twice as long as the more commercial ones, and are harvested by hand. They are grown in small plots, where almost no machines are used, and require heroic work by local farmers, accustomed to face the adversity of the terrain.

This kind of salty chocolates from the Peruvian altiplano are small and of different colors. Its shades range from purple to blackish, passing through pink. The smaller ones are like cherry tomatoes and the larger ones equal to a plum. His skin is irregular, with ‘eye’ marks. Inside, they range from cream-colored to bright yellow, typical of the revered black potato or ‘egg yolk’, which turns an even more accentuated color with cooking. In the mouth, its texture is creamy, with a touch of sweetness and a flavor intensity of another dimension.

Denomination of origin

Their versatility makes them the wild card in the kitchen. Those from the Canary Islands have, in addition, all the organoleptic qualities of any other, but raised to the square. They are so special that they have the only protected designation of origin in Europe specifically dedicated to potatoes, approved by the European Union in 2012 with the title of Papas Antiguas de Canarias (D.O.P.).

The most popular names for the protected types produced exclusively on the islands are bonitas, whether white, black or colored, black or egg yolk, white, black or red wig, colored lilies and borrallas. In Anaga some very special potatoes are cultivated within this family: the torrentas. It is a potato that is lilac on the outside and pale yellow on the inside and is in danger of disappearing.

Today, potatoes are one of the four most consumed foods on the planet. However, those from the Canary Islands are not a mass product and neither could they be. Its production has been falling for years due to a moth infestation that causes heavy losses and forces export bans to prevent the insect from spreading.

This could soon change if the research projects being developed in Tenerife achieve the expected advances so that, once and for all, potatoes become a gastronomic and economic opportunity. At the moment, they already have a commemorative date, as May 30 has been declared ‘World Potato Day’ by the World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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