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From Fields to Families: Growing Colombia’s Native Potatoes    
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Today’s Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants will be presented in Spanish, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Halo, creative viewers and welcome to our program. The Republic of Colombia ranks second in the world in terms of biodiversity. Amazingly one out of every 10 of the planet’s plant and animal species can be found in this nation. The country is richly blessed in terms of agricultural production, being well known for its coffee, cotton, sugarcane, bananas and potatoes.

On today’s program, we visit this splendid South American jewel to discover how they grow and harvest an amazing tuber indigenous to the country, the Corneto potato. Although many different varieties are cultivated, the Corneto, an ancient potato, is exceptionally delicious. Highly nutritious, it contains many essential vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fiber. Cooked, it has more protein than corn and nearly twice the calcium.

It is also very well suited to certain parts of Colombia, as it grows abundantly in cooler climates and at higher elevations, namely between 2,500 meters and 3,400 meters. Let’s begin our journey by hearing from the Usme Local Assistance Agricultural Unit, which is involved in reviving the cultivation of the Corneto. The city of Usme is part of the Capital District of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city.

We have been working since last year on the recovery of native seeds. We had a broad spectrum of materials to recover: we want to recover fruit, we want to recover some species associated with cereals such as quinoa and tubers. We realized that the diversity of tubers was so wide that we are now dedicated exclusively to the recovery of tubers, including the whole line of Corneto potatoes, a native Creole potato that commonly occurred in these areas for many years.

So far, we have understood that these materials come from many, many, many, many years ago. We know that the natives were cultivating it when the Spanish arrived. It is known that they had these plants. It is known that here in the belt of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru is the center of the origin of these potatoes. It is known that this is where they began to discover potatoes, and after that they began to take it to Spain and other countries, but the center of origin of the potato is the Andean region.

There are many advantages to growing this wonderful variety of potato.

These plants have the characteristic that they have a broad genetic base. They are not genetically uniform, but are very heterogeneous. And they are very resilient to environmental conditions.

What advantages do we have with these potatoes? We see that by using a real good compost with good nutrients, they prosper very well. They are more or less ready within 110 or 120 days, and they are very resistant to plagues and illnesses and also resistant to the cold.

A good characteristic of this (Corneto) potato, that seems to me to be very important is that it has a greater protein value than the others. The taste, one tries one …a Corneto Pepina (Yellow Corneto) and one can taste the flavor of a product free of chemicals.

What we know at present is these products have more protein content than the normal potatoes, we’re talking about the Pasto potato, potato R-12, the unique potato that we find commonly in the markets.

Potatoes are germinated from an unusual type of “seed.” The eyes, or slight indentations in the potato, are actually its “seeds.” As a result, a piece from a potato or perhaps even the entire potato is sown to create a new plant. Let’s have a look at how this crop is carefully planted by hand in the early spring.

As we already have the land ready, we’ll proceed with the hoe. Ready? Let's go. We make a hole more or less 20 centimeters deep, with a radius of 40 centimeters and a distance of 80 to 90 centimeters between the holes. Then we proceed to do the following. Here we have three holes. We will plant three different varieties. Then we proceed to plant the seed. In this case we do not apply fertilizer because we will be growing them organically.

Here we will plant a light red Corneto. Here in this one, we place a yellow Corneto, the famous Pepina, and then last here we will add a black Tocana variety. So now we proceed to cover it. It has to be very uniform to prevent the water from getting in and damaging the seed. Finished! There it is now, the initial seeding. So now, all that remains is to wait for it to come up. And when it does, then we do the first disinfection with the nettle puree, garlic or pepper, according to the spot where the seed was sown, and the needs it has.

Under the warm Colombian sun, the seeds sprout quickly, pushing the first leaves out through the soil. Then the crop is carefully tended to, by watering and watching carefully for disease. Before long, the plant is flourishing.

So this is a plant, about a month after having been planted. We must watch the plant carefully. If needed, we apply natural bio-preparations, natural repellents. But what we have seen, the experience that we have had here, is that the Cornetos are a bit more resistant to gout (fly) than the Creole, or the ordinary yellow potato. After about three and a half months to four months, when the plants are in bloom, they should be harvested when they flower.

The oval shaped tubers are carefully dug out from underneath the soil, and then usually left to dry for a short time before using or storage. Depending on the variety, the potatoes can be different shades of red, yellow, brown, or even black on the outside.

Here we have the whole collection of the red ones, red Cornetos, we have light red, dark red, red cream, red black, black, black eyed cream, black with cream, and possibly other shades that escape our sight that normally grow as we go on cultivating. These are the red ones, in fact here we find some more intense (in color). The red and another more lighter (in color), we have differentiated them between a light red (color) and a dark red (color). And this is a black one mixed with a cream color. Look, this one is beige meaning it still needs to ripen.

Once they are harvested, they are screened and any one that may have a seed disease will be discarded. Here we have all our collection…. This one that we have here is the Corneto that normally the agriculturalists call the Pepina and it is a Corneto of yellowish color, it has no other color.

Crop rotation is a necessary practice to ensure the potatoes keep growing well in the farmer’s land.

We harvest them, take them out and then choose the large uniform ones. We sort out the tubers. We know that this is in the nightshade family, right? So we should not plant another sort of the same species but we should rotate, say with lettuce, or another distinct species. If I keep planting only potato in a given area, the ground, first will not produce the same, because everything gets depleted, and the other thing is that there may be many guests, like insects, fungus, and they will already know that there they have their certain food, so to speak.

We are grateful for all the dedicated farmers who work devotedly to plant, grow, and harvest these highly nourishing native potatoes, and to the talented Colombian cooks who prepare them in so many wonderful ways. May all people on Earth enjoy colorful and delightful plant based dishes in a peaceful, vegan world.

Thank you for joining us today on our program. May humanity always live in peace and harmony.
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