Chiloé Archipelago
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Chilote Black-Lipped Oysters: For Gourmands
Along the coast of Chiloe, the second largest island in South America, artisan fishermen cultivate the Chilean black-lipped oyster, a tiny little bivalve that tastes of the fresh sea (similar to a Kunamoto in the Pacific Northwest). Often, many of the fishermen still freedive to collect these "manjares", delicacies, and keep them in nets in their shells in the shallow ocean water until they are ready to be served on the half shell. Where to savor them? Almost anywhere in Chiloe but places like the Ancud market or speciality oyster "picadas", joints, like Ostras Caulin where you can have them on the half shell, fried, poached and served cold or as a cream. Personally? They are best raw and skip the lemon, por favor.
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Chilote Elephant Garlic…Mmmm...
Among the small, rural farming communities of Chile's southern island, Chiloe, the native elephant garlic, locally called "Ajo Chilote," is prized for its soft flavor and texture. Now a heirloom seed that is protected, this garlic is completely organically raised and now being brought to the capital of Santiago by speciality dealers, or even being exported abroad to the U.S. How to best savor this garlic? You can find it in the bustling island markets in Ancud and Castro and in many restaurants. Try roasting it to make a soft paste with olive oil and sea salt, perfect for spreading on homemade bread that Chilotes love like "amasado."
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Native Potato Heritage in Chiloé
The potato on the island of Chiloé dates back to pre-Hispanic times, cultivated by the indigenous communities along the coastline and in forests in the fertile soil. Part of the base of the Chilote diet, and important dishes like the Milcao (potato fritter) and curanto, today there are over two hundred catalogued varieties of potatoes endemic to the region. In fact, in Chiloé, there has been a tradition of many women working as "potato keepers" to protect the heirloom seeds that form part of their gastronomic heritage. The institute called CET (Centro de Educación y Tecnología) created a bank of native chilote potatoes in its main headquarters in Chonchi. Besides cataloguing, CET has also capacitated farmers and the community as to the importance and pride in maintaining this tradition in modern times. For a glimpse of a dozen or so of the many varieties, visit the Castro market where many women come to sell the harvested potatoes in March-May.
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