Kineua and Otudates, two rare Canarian potatoes

With influences from Africa, Latin America, and the Spanish peninsular, as well as recipes of the islands’ own creation, the Canary Islands are said to have the most original gastronomy in Spain. Gastronomes might argue the point, but there’s no beating the Canarian ‘tater.

The humble potatoe was first discovered in Latin America by Spanish conquistadors, although no one can say exactly when the first one was brought to Europe or from exactly whence it actually came. Despite claims that Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake introduced it to England, this appears to be the stuff of legend as there is no evidence to back the claim up. Historians believe that the tuba arrived in the latter part of the sixteenth century, and as there are records showing potatoes being sent from Tenerife to Antwerp in 1565, it is generally assumed that the staple diet of most of Europe first arrived via the Canaries.

The sweet potatoe reached England via the Canary Islands and was the common potato during the Elizabethan years. At that time, sweet potatoes were sold in crystallized slices with sea holly (eringo), a thistle style plant with a blue flower that grows on sand dunes throughout Europe, as an aphrodisiac. Shakespeare mentions this sweetmeat in  “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (“Let the sky rain potatoes…hail kissing comforts and snow eringoes”), and the Empress Josephine introduced sweet potatoes to her companions, who were soon serving them to stimulate the passion of their lovers. (Shakespeare also mentioned Malmsey, also known as Sack, an important wine export in the 16th and 17th centuries. Originally produced in Tenerife, the main area of production is now Lanzarote.)

Known locally by the original Indian name of papas, the Canarian potatoes we dine on today are direct descendants of those said to have come from the Andes in the 16th century. Small, wrinkled and knobbly, black, red and yellow, they have their own distinctive flavour. (You may well hear of two local varieties, Kineua  and Otudates – bastardised versions of ‘King Edwards’ and ‘Out of date’ respectively, words said to have been stamped on the sacks when they first came to Spain and mis-read by the non-English speaking locals. This smacks heartily of a local giggle at the dumb tourists expense, given that it was the Spanish that introduced the potatoe to the English.)

The traditional way of cooking papas is with a large amount of sea salt (they were originally cooked in sea water), the quantity being decided on by putting the potatoes in fiercely boiling water and pouring in enough salt until the potatoes float. They are served in a small dish, with a white encrustation of salt on them and known as papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes). Traditionally they are accompanied by mojo picon, a piquant sauce made from garlic, paprika, cumin, breadcrumbs and wine vinegar.

The dish is an accompaniment to almost any meal or it can be eaten on its own, washed down with Canarian wine. Simple and simply delicious, no one should leave the Canary Islands without having tried papas arrugadas con mojo picon.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, Derek Workman, and Spain Uncovered. Articles and books can also be found at Digital Paparazzi.

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2 Responses to “Kineua and Otudates, two rare Canarian potatoes”

  1. Nandita Menon Says:

    I hope nobody is expected to consume a tuba for la comida? Or indeed at any other time.

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