Nine native Andean roots and tuber crops hold economic and nutritional importance for subsistence farmers in the Andes.
They grow at high altitudes under extremely difficult conditions of drought, freezing temperatures, and UV exposure.
These lesser-known andean roots and tubers offer high vitamin, micronutrient, and starch content; good yields, and various medicinal properties. As a result, they also hold potential for further research, adaptation and use in other regions of the world and exportation.
Andean roots and tubers occur in three altitudinally determined phytogeographic zones: the cool-temperate highlands from about 2500 to 4000 m altitude, the subtropical zone in inter-Andean valleys and on both slopes of the Andes (1000-2500 m altitude) and the inhospitably cold subarctic puna (4000-4500 m).
In rural communities and urban areas, andean roots and tubers account for only a minor fraction of caloric intake, but this alone would be a poor indicator of their role in diets. Although often and mistakenly referred to as ‘staples’, andean roots and tubers add diversity to local cuisines, especially to the diets of the rural poor who take part only marginally in the market economy. They also provide significant amounts of minerals and other essential nutrients, such as vitamins, which are in short supply to poor people in the developing world.