To go to Cuzco’s wholesale market, Vinocanchón, is to enter into a world of variety. Row after row of potatoes await you with different colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. After all, the potato evolved in Peru and it makes sense there would be hundreds if not thousands of varieties. Each community seems to have its own set and they adapt to its foods.
In Cuzco, despite this kaleidoscope, three varieties of potato are the most common. These are the Peruanita, the compis, and the huayro. It is hard to imagine food in Cuzco without them
The most purchased and consumed may well be the Peruanita, called such because of its red and yellowish white colors, almost those of the national flag. Inside its flesh is yellow and it is quite fluffy. On the outside it has lots of eyelets. Generally these are small potatoes, about the size of tomatoes.
This potato can support the intense cold of the Andean highlands. It is the perfect potato to be froze and then thawed to make our famous papa helada. It can be conserved for long periods of time, as a result, and find many uses in our gastronomy.
Since it is one of the most asked for and most sold potatoes, people tend to buy it daily, as they need it, in order to make the delicious dishes that keep our city in body and soul.
Women go to the markets very early. They say the Peruanita potato is sweet in flavor and delicious. It is important because its starches contribute to thickening the whole range of our soups.
Nevertheless, the Peruanita is not a good potato for frying. It takes on a different flavor and color. Boiled or baked it has a wonderful flavor that you will not forget quickly.
A large quantity of dishes is made from this potato given its flexibility. From it is made mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, stuffed potatoes, our famous papa helada with slices of cheese, causa limeña, and whichever dishes require boiled potatoes. It is known for its ability to accompany our great sauces and ajies (or hot sauces).
The compis potato is a large potato with a pinkinsh, smooth peel. It is rounded and has deep eyelets. It is considered a floury potato and its yellowish flesh is in great demand throughout Peru.
Compis may find its greatest use in our soups, although it is also required for our famous soltero de cuchicara (a dish made of hog jowls).
Besides its use for food, it peel is considered medicinal. People boil it and say that the resulting tea alleviates kidney pains in children.
The Huayro potato is considered a special and popular potato because of its good flavor in special dishes. It has a soft and floury texture that people love.
This is one of the most typical potatoes in demand for the dishes that signify Cusco.
With its distinguished flavor it is a good companion for our famous chicharrón (deep fried pork). In this traditional dish, the huayro potato is deep fried as well, in large chunks or in whole potatoes.
This potato also blends well with papa rellena (stuffed potatoes), escabeche, our capchi de zetas or habas, zarzas, as well as with broths. In these latter the huayro potato comes in large chunks added to the concentrated broth at the time of serving.
It is also a good potato for making huatia, our rustic baked potatoes. In the earthen over then acquire a crispy texture outside while remaining subtle and fluffy inside. It combines well with the uchucuta, our traditional hot sauce.
Huayro potatoes are the faithful companion for our anticuchos (skewered meat) in Cuzco. They are first boiled and then grilled along with the meat. Small pieces of meat are skewered and are followed by the potato.
In Cuzco’s homes a dish of boiled huayro potatoes are often found on the table, along with a dish of hot sauce, to serve as a snack or appetizer. Our parents and grandparents say that if you do not like potatoes you are not from Cuzco
Though the authentic huayro potato comes from nearby Andahuaylas, it is also grown in Cuzco. We are fortunate to have it available for our different dishes throughout the year.
Another agriculture year is getting ready to begin as the rains announce themselves. Already farmers are preparing their fields to plant potatoes, both in the city and the countryside.