Class of 2021
A natural-born culinary wizard, Manuel Choqque is a fourth-generation farmer from Huatata near Cusco, high up in the Andes. After studying agricultural engineering in the Peruvian capital, he returned to his hometown to take over the family business and focus on the natural genetic improvement of native potatoes known as ocas and mashuas. He began collecting ancestral potato varieties by himself as a hobby, studying products from Inca and pre-Inca cultures that were no longer used. Today, he has more than 380 varieties of native potatoes, which he improves by imitating bees with manual cross-pollination. He removes the pollen from one potato flower and sprinkles it onto the flower of another variety, achieving tubers with bright, intensified colours like blue and purple, while enhancing the nutritional properties, textures and flavours too.
During his research, Manuel discovered that the oca (oxalis tuberosa) contained high levels of sugar and therefore had the potential to be used for alcoholic beverages. After two years of research and experimentation, he launched his own oca wine, which he called Miskioca. He makes the rosé, white, red and orange wines by cooking the potatoes down to a juice and then fermenting it for six months. Each bottle then rests for 60 days before being sold to top restaurants such as Virgilio Martínez’s acclaimed Central in Lima, a three-time No.1 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. With the custom from such restaurants, Manuel is able to reinvest in his projects to revalue his Andean treasures, proving that they’re not just a bunch of carbs but an essential part of Peruvian culture and tradition – one that should be honoured and celebrated.
“The greatest treasure that our ancestors left us is the diversity of our Andean crops, a legacy that we are not taking good care of, so we are leaving future generations without food.” – Manuel Choqque