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Peruvian Corn | Peru Food and Gastronomy

Peruvian Corn – Peru Food and Gastronomy

One of the most widely-consumed foodstuffs in Peruvian cuisine. This corn has been planted in Peru since at least 1200 BC. The ancient Peruvian farmers achieved a degree of sophistication in the selection and creation of new varieties which adapted to varying terrains and climates.

Sixteenth-century Spanish chronicler Bernabé Cobo wrote how in ancient Peru one could find corn (known locally as choclo) in every color under the sun: white, yellow, purple, black, red and mixed. Today, farmers along the Peruvian coast, highlands and jungle grow more than 55 varieties of corn, more than anywhere else on Earth.

Native historian Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, in his Royal Commentaries of the Incas, wrote in detail on eating habits in colonial times. In those days, corn was a key part of nutritional needs, and the locals called it Sara, eating it roasted or boiled in water. On major occasions, they milled the kernels to bake a type of bread called tanta or huminta. For solemn events such as the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi), they would bake breadrolls called zancu. The Peruvian corn was also roasted and called the same today as it was then: cancha (the predecessor of popcorn).

Today, Peru features regional varieties on ways to prepare delicious dishes based on corn. In northern Peru, the locals are particularly fond of pepián, a stew based on grated corn kernels mixed with onion, garlic and the chilli pepper and which takes on a particularly heightened flavor when cooked with turkey. Arequipa inhabitants prepare a dish called soltero (beans, corn, onion and dressing made from fresh cheese). In the jungle, one of the most typical dishes, inchi cache, is made from chicken cooked in a stew made of roasted corn and peanuts. Desserts include the sanguito (made from yellow cornflour, cooking fat, raisins and a sugarcane molasses called chancaca).

Peruvian Corn is also used to make cornmash pastries called tamales and humitas, which can come in a wide range of colors and flavors (green, brown and yellow; sweet and savory); peruvian corn is also the main ingredient of the chicha morada (drink made from purple corn) or chicha de jora (fermented corn beer) and the sweet purple corn jelly called mazamorra, for special occasions.

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