At first I was excited when I found out that much of the asparagus found on grocery store shelves in the US is “Product of Peru”. Just take a look next time you’re in the produce department, chances are those yummie green asparagus will be wrapped in a blue-ish purple elastic band stamped “Product of Peru”. I used to be happy to see that, because unlike our South American neighbor Chile – which exports lots of wine and grapes – you don’t see hardly any Peruvian products in overseas stores.
Peru has very little arable land due to it’s climate and geography but there are multiple micro-climates in the varying elevations of the Andes mountains. As a result, Peru produces a variety of excellent fresh foods, such as avocados, coffee, it’s famous purple corn, potatoes, etc.
When I first moved to Peru I used to pick up a package of delicious fresh asparagus (they are so much yummier when fresh) practically once a week but lately I hardly ever see asparagus in our local grocery store any more. Since Peru signed several free-trade agreements in the past few years – with China and the U.S. – I’ve heard grumblings that too much of the best Peruvian products are exported and not enough is left for domestic consumption. The same is said of course of the natural gas that Peru produces.
Truth is I have no idea when the season for asparagus is and what the true reason is for the lack of asparagus at our “Mega” store, but just in case please stop eating asparagus for a month or so :)
Fresh asparagus are great with many meals, one of my favorites is pasta with my famous home-made pasta sauce and side of asparagus:
Like any good kid Brianna isn’t too keen on eating her vegetables, but she likes papi’s homemade pasta sauce:
Before you ask, here’s the recipe for my famous homemade pasta sauce:
STEP 1: Go to store and buy favorite pasta sauce.
STEP 2: Add meat of choice, lots of fresh tomatoes and beer – preferably something good like Cerveza Cusqueña.
STEP 3: What, you think I’m a chef or something? There is no step 3. Eat and enjoy!
As for preparing the asparagus, I boil them in salted water for about 5 minutes and then stir-fry them in a pan with butter, salt and pepper. Listo!
Agriculture, by-the-way, is making a huge comeback worldwide. Farmland is fetching record prices in the Midwest and Canada. I was recently in Saskatchewan, Canada – which is another whole story – where farm fields are a mile square or bigger and a friend-of-a-friend who farms 4,000 acres or so told us business is booming.
I’m proud of the fact that my grandparents were farmers and my father (and his brother) continued to take care of the farm after his parents retired. Occasionally I see ranches advertised for sale in some areas of lower elevation near Cuzco, so if you’re interested in becoming an avocado farmer in Peru, just shoot me a message :)
We spent a few days in Arequipa last month, you may have already read about part of the adventure here.
Arequipa is the largest city in the south of Peru, known as “la Cuidad Blanca” or the “white city”. It is well known that Arequipa is called “la Cuidad Blanca” because many of the city’s colonial buildings are made out of “sillar”, a white volcanic rock local to the Arequipa area. However, I’ve heard there’s a second reason for the nickname “white city”: when the Spanish settlers arrived in Lima, many found Lima’s climate too cool and humid and moved to Arequipa for its mild and dry climate. As the Spanish settlers with more white-colored skin displaced the native Quechua Indian population, Arequipa became known as “the white city”.
I don’t know if that second story is true but you can’t blame the Spaniards for moving to Arequipa in search for a better climate than Lima. Stuart once said that Arequipa has the most perfect climate on earth and it’s hard to argue with that. Outside of a few rainy months during the Southern hemisphere summer, Arequipa enjoys a mild, dry and sunny climate – all day, every day.
The weather isn’t hot but do bring a hat because the sun is very strong in Arequipa, I guess that must be due to the combination of elevation and dry air. Arequipa, by the way, is at an elevation of 7,550 feet or 2,300 meters, higher than Denver but lower than Cuzco.
There are many reasons to visit Arequipa: it’s far more cosmopolitan and far less touristy than Cuzco. The local food is a bit different (more spicy) than in other parts of Peru. Arequipa has beautiful views, history, culture and a near-perfect climate.
But the most important reason to visit Arequipa is that the city is near to several major volcanos, practically in the shadows of “el Misti Volcano”. One day sooner or later one or all of the volcanos will go KABOOM and then Arequipa as we know it will be history. So go on and get your chupe de camarones and rocoto relleno before it’s too late :)
Note: rockheads can download the geology of el Misti Volcano here.