Commentary, Food Culture

Foods Stay Cool with Ancestral Technology, Taqes

Taqes, Potato, Muña and Ichu (Photo: Walter Coraza morveli)

Our ancestors in the Andes mountains had an amazing knowledge of technology for the production and conservation of food. They kept the food from season to season in harmony with nature by channeling the force of the wind to cool stored agricultural products. In this way they guaranteed the self-sufficiency of Tawantinsuyo, the Inca Empire. in the difficult mountain environment.

They located storage buildings strategically throughout the Andes on the slopes above towns and cities. In Quechua these were called Qollkas and relied on the son, air, frost, water, salt, and the advantages of altitude to keep fresh food such as potatoes, quinoa, kiwicha, meat, and more.  The buildings came in different forms and were made with stone and clay.  Inside they relied on refrigerative techniques that in Quechua we call taqes.

Taqe in Mulluy Orco, Cuzco (Photo: Wayra)
Taqe in Mulluy Orco, Cuzco (Photo: Wayra)

These taqes are small structures of stone dressed with a mass of clay, lime, and plaster that are found within the qollkas.  They look like tables with small feet that have the function of doors to let wind in and to filter the cold air around the product stored with in. Inside them were placed herbs which filled different functions.  For example dried straw, ichu, removed humidity. Muña was also used, as was marku. Today people rely on eucalyptus too, because of its strong smell.  In this way they keep their products from being attacked by plagues that could ruin them.

 

This technology is well represented in our archeology and you can still see it in use in communities of the southern Andes, in Peru and bolivia. Nevertheless, with time we are running the risk that this technology may be forgotten along with the idea that people can preserve food in a environmentally responsible way.

In the folds of our Andes mountains you can still find much mystery and ancestral wisdom.

 

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