The Potato of Tears

In Ecuador’s Andes, you’ll have to go to strange lengths to win a hand in marriage. ©Hugo Ghiara

Almost as soon as my wife Suzan and I moved to the little craft village in Ecuador’s northern Andes Mountains that we now call home, we learned about potatoes.

That’s only natural—potatoes evolved in South America. There are around 5,000 varieties, some 3,000 of which are still grown in the Andes.

But one variety in particular catches my attention every year. I became interested in it as soon as I heard about it from a local friend. He called it the Potato of Tears. It’s a thumb-sized potato with a convoluted surface of tiny folds, fissures, and lobes.

In the local farming communities, when a young man asked for a girl’s hand in marriage, the matrons of the girl’s family would agree to the union—if the young man could successfully peel this particular potato. And not just peel it, but peel it in one, continuous cut…a cut that completely removes the peel from all the nooks and crannies and bumps, while leaving the tiny potato itself intact.

No peel, no wife. Tears.

My friend didn’t say if young men faced with the Potato of Tears only got one chance at it. I suspect that they did, if the young lady involved had anything to do with it. There’s always a little peeling to do on the farm.

 

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