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Cuchi Pelo Potatoes
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Cuchi Pelo potatoes are small in size and are round, oval, and irregular in shape. The semi-rough skin is dark brown with red undertones and is often covered in dry soil making the tuber appear brown. The thin skin is also covered in many deep-set eyes, causing the tuber to have bumps and divots on the surface, giving it a lumpy shape. Underneath the skin, the flesh is firm, dense, and dry with a vibrant marbled pattern of purple and cream-colored hues. When cooked, Cuchi Pelo potatoes develop a starchy texture with an earthy and subtly nutty taste.
Cuchi Pelo potatoes are available year-round in Peru.
Cuchi Pelo potatoes, botanically a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, are small, edible underground tubers that are native to Peru. There are over three-thousand varieties of potatoes in Peru that have been cultivated for hundreds of years, and the Cuchi Pelo potato is considered to be one of the rarer varieties that are not commonly found in local markets. To protect the variety from being lost, the Cuchi Pelo is often featured during the Festival of The Native Potato, which is a two-day event showcasing native potato varieties to re-inspire Peruvians to expand their use of diverse tubers. Cuchi Pelo potatoes are favored for their unusual marbled flesh and are utilized in various culinary applications to showcase the purple hues.
Cuchi Pelo potatoes are an excellent source of antioxidants and also contain some vitamin C, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Cuchi Pelo potatoes are best suited for cooked applications such as roasting, baking, mashing, and frying. The tubers can be thinly sliced and baked into chips to showcase their marbled flesh, or they can be sliced, boiled, and served with sauces and fresh herbs. Cuchi Pelo potatoes can also be cooked and mashed into a violet mashed potato dish, or they can be roasted as a filling accompaniment. Cuchi Pelo potatoes pair well with meats such as poultry, pork, and fish, fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley, and thyme, leafy greens, corn, beans, and quinoa. The tubers will keep 2-5 weeks when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
In Peru, chefs are utilizing native potatoes to bring awareness to the many traditional varieties and are partnering with local farms to supply the tubers as a way to increase revenue and support for the Peruvian economy. A restaurant in the town of Arequipa known as Hatunpapa, which means “big potato” in Quechua, a native Peruvian language, only serves native potatoes to highlight unusual varieties such as the Cuchi Pelo. Hatunpapa was created in 2011 and is just one of the many restaurants in Peru that are promoting native potatoes to save the varieties and encourage the use of native versus imported potatoes. Some of the famous dishes made with native potatoes include rocotto relleno or stuffed chile peppers served with a potato gratin, or causa, which are potatoes layered with tuna or chicken salad.
Cuchi Pelo potatoes are a rare, native variety found in Peru that has been growing since ancient times. Potatoes, in general, have been cultivated in regions across Peru for over eight thousand years and today Cuchi Pelo potatoes can be found in select areas of Peru, grown on a small scale and sold at fresh local markets.