A Bolivian guide’s lock down – the potato harvest.

by on 11th June, 2020


Marisol, one of our Bolivian guides, tells us a little of her life in lockdown in Bolivia:

She writes “I am giving you a little of what I learned living with my grandparents in the country. They are no longer there, but my parents still keep the land and continue the tradition.

During the quarantine, we had to almost escape the city for the harvests because if we didn’t we would have lost the potato production. It is hard work, but this year I felt more grateful for being free in the fields and having food.

Marisol, at the Witches Market in La Paz working as a guide.

Making “chuño”

The potato harvest season in the Bolivian altiplano begins in March and can last until May.

The first step is to separate the potatoes; according to their size, some potatoes will be for cooking, others for the seed of the next sowing and the smallest ones or those that have some defects will be dehydrated and turned into “chuño”.

In early June the temperature drops to below zero degrees. The process for making chuño is leaving the potato outdoors, waiting for the low temperatures to freeze them completely. Once they are as hard as stones, we put them in the sun to soften them and proceed to step on them to remove all the liquid and dry them.

The chuño is dark in color, for those who do not know, they seem like small black stones. The good thing about making chuño is that if you keep them in a cool place they can last for many years and you have food guaranteed in case your harvest next year is not good.

To rehydrate the potato to eat it, it must be put in water. Once they are soft they are cooked in soups or with cheese and meat.


Quinoa – the food of the Andes

We also harvest quinoa, which is an incredibly elaborate process. We had to collect them one by one, which was hard work. Then we stacked them and this week we have to thresh them to separate them from their stem.

Red Quinoa, before the harvest.


Ajawiri  – the purple potato

Of Ajawiri,  Marisol says: “The name of this variety is “ajawiri”, but we do not know what it means. It should be cooked with the skin on. We like it fresh, but there are others who make it into chuño when the production is very good and you can’t eat it all … better dehydrated than going to waste.

Ajawiri, one of the many kinds of Andean potatoes.


Working hard

Separating the potatoes, my mother, Justina Maidana, is very meticulous. She separates the potatoes by size, we eat the bigger ones, or if there are others, we sell them. Some are also for seeds or chuño.

Justina Maidana, Marisol’s mother.

We call this variety of potato “imilla”, which means “young”.  This variety is the one we have the most of, and again some become chuño”.

Iimilla, the young potato.


Many thanks Marisol, for this insight into the potato harvest on the Bolivian Altiplano March to May 2020, which is still such an integral part of life in the Andes.

We’ll look forward to seeing you back as a tour guide soon, sharing your love and passion for your home country!


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