Lima is not a city of extreme temperatures. Winter isn’t dramatic, but weather is humid and cool. It’s frequently foggy, and from May to August the sky is generally covered by grey clouds. In spite of that, winter comes full of expectations as it is aligned with the harvest of the tubers that occurs in our Sierra regions.
There is no clear winter in the Andes of Cusco either, but there is the freezing season annually around June when the temperature by night decreases drastically. During the day the skies are clear and blue, and the sun shines beautifully over the green mountains.
We learned from the Huancavelica producers that there are very particular requirements for potato plants to form tubers. One of them, and probably the most important, being the drop in temperature during the freezing times. Digging deep into the ground to gather these incredible potatoes is always something we look forward to doing while there.
The latest changes in climate have changed the scenario for these and other potato growers. Some years from now, potato growers will be forced to go higher in the mountains (almost 150 meters higher) to find lower temperature soils to permit tuber formation. Imagine how hard it will be to slowly move your plot of land closer to the mountaintops because the way it is, it no longer produces what it did years ago.
I can honestly say, one of my best experiences having been there was witnessing incredible Huatias where the variety of colors and textures of different sized potatoes are part of the harvest feast. They produce amazingly colourful and diverse potatoes. Something that continues in Central, as well as in the Andean fields, is about sharing and connecting with people.
All of this inspired me to create one dish that we have in our tasting menu. We call it Extreme Stems because of the extreme temperature that can be found in the mountains at 2875 meters above the sea level. Even if this dish isn’t rooted in Lima, which is where I am, it is an expression of my memory of the journeys to the Andes and the feeling of the frost in the mountains, the harvest of the tubers, roots and potatoes.
Virgilio Martinez, Central (Lima, Peru)