As the great agronomist Nikolai Vavilov designated “hotspots” for the origin of domesticated crops, Peru was definitely one of them. When Patrick and Joseph Simcox visited Peru in late summer 2014, their goal was not too much different from Nikolai’s so long ago: to record and document food plant diversity. The Peruvian Andes are home to corn, beans, mashua, oca, ullucus, yacon, lima beans, potatoes, peppers, papayas and many others. The great US agronomist Jack Harlan once wrote: “Crops are artifacts made and molded by man as much as a flint arrowhead, a stone ax-head, or a clay pot.” Indeed, when my brother Patty and I made our way through the high mountain villages and markets, we were reminded that the natural wonders we were witnessing were indeed artifacts that were in ways lovingly maintained by man, through the rituals of planting and harvest.
I may like to intellectualize too much, but I often ask the question if the people growing this stuff really love it or if they are just doing it because they have no better choices. Why do I ask this? Because in our own world of modern day America, most people, the over- whelming majority, seem very content to not be bound to the toil of the soil. Are the colorful folk in Peru just as susceptible to losing their agricultural traditions as we did?
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