New research projects to identify and safeguard biodiversity in Chile

Stretching more than 4000 kilometers north to south, from the Atacama desert to the Tierra del Fuego, Chile is home to an incredible wealth of biodiversity, as well as a conflation of food cultures that span indigenous peoples and migrants from across the globe.

Slow Food Chile is raising money for a nationwide research process that will identify potential new Slow Food Presidia. The products which have been selected as subjects of research have been chosen together with the local convivia and food communities of Terra Madre, according to the needs and aspirations of the producers.

Three of the prospective new Presidia are:

The Valle de Huasco Sweet Potato

An economic mainstay for the farming families in the local region, the Valle de Huasco Sweet Potato has particular organoleptic characteristics which still need to be researched further, in order to characterize it genetically. This will be the first objective of the Presidium, after which it work to implement a production protocol for growing the plants using agroecological methods.

The Valle de Huasco Sweet Potato

Mardón Honey

After devastating forest fires in early 2017, thousands of native tree species such as the Mardón (Escallonia pulverulenta) were lost, threatening the survival of these plants and the traditional food production activities associated with them. The unique characteristics of Mardón honey derive not only from its gastronomic qualities, but the community which has been safeguarding it here for over a century. Creating this Presidium will protect 2,700 Mardón trees and other native species, allowing the Women’s Apiculture Cooperation of Coronel de Maule to plant more trees, thus helping the region recover from the effect of the fires and protecting biodiversity.

A Mardón Honey beekeeper in action

Villarrica Chaura

The Chaura, also known as the prickly heath, is a flowering plant native to southern Argentina and Chile. It is little known even within Chile, but of great importance to the people living in the area of Lake Villarrica, both for its use in local traditional recipes and as a source of income for the community. The Presidia aims to establish a protocol for its collection, processing and consumption according to shared and agreed-upon best practices, and collect traditional recipes and preparation methods using the fruit.

The Villarrica Chaura

Through the Goteo Foundation, Slow Food Chile is trying to raise money to get these projects up and running. (At present, the platform is only available in Spanish.)

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