Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Corn Part Two: Crop diversity in Ecuador

OK, boring headline, but really cool picture. For the past decade there has been a concerted effort to record and preserve the astonishing variety of crops grown in the northern Andean highlands of Ecuador. In a survey of farms in the region, it was found that local farmers are growing a stupefyingly large variety of chile peppers, beans, squash, corn, and potatoes.

This includes 30, I say, son, 30 different kinds of corn!!

In addition to cataloging this incredible diversity, each year there is a seed-exchange fair (the photo above is from the fair) in the town of Cotacachi to help preserve varieties in danger of disappearing. And a food processing facility has been set up to provide a profitable outlet for local crops—thus encouraging farmers to keep farming. The artisanal products made in the processing plant appear to only be sold in Ecuador, but here's what they have (that I wish I could buy): Andean blackberry marmalade, dried cape gooseberries, roasted black squash seeds.

In case you've never seen a cape gooseberry, it looks like a tomatillo, to which it is in fact related. They are also called ground cherries, though they are not at all related to that fruit. Ground cherries, if they're grown in your area, might be appearing in farmers' markets about now.

Did anyone get the Foghorn Leghorn reference above? It's hard to write in a cartoon accent. If I'd said "I say, son" out loud, I'll bet you would have gotten it.

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