Peruvian crops galore!
Andean tubers, olluco and oca
Peruvians relish the world’s most healthy and nutritious tubers (root vegetables), crops and grains such as Quinoa, now touted as the world´s healthiest grains, kiwicha, yacon, chuño and my favorite, olluco a root vegetable which is a cross between potato and chayote. I personally prepare this vegetable 3 ways: traditional with tomatoes & beef jerky or charqui, in Spanish, and two innovations, in creamy mushroom sauce and the other is still Peruvian touch, with cilantro sauce usually both with chicken. Then there’s the fabulou papa, potato, which the National Institute of Potato claim that Peru has 2,800 varieties at the very least. I have eaten and tried about a dozen varieties so far, thus 2,788 to go!
The most popular potato dishes are Causa - mashed potato layered with avocado, olives, green peas; the Papa a la huancaina and Ocopa, both served with Peruvian aji, yellow pepper sauce. Boiled or baked potato is Peruvian staple in every meal. Another famous tuber is the Oca, with consistency like carrots, now famous ingredient in novo Andino cuisine. Peru has 55 corn varieties – I saw the biggest one in Cusco, it’s ear as big as mine. Ever heard of purple corn? Here, they prepare it as a healthy beverage, it lowers cholesterol level, a home made juice called chicha morada, by boiling purple corn with pineapple slices, cinnamon and clove, add sugar to taste and chilled before serving. They have at least 3 Andean endemic varieties of squash, called zapallo, calabaza and loche, the Peruvian version of pumpkin, gourd or squash. Caigua, commonly known as wild cucumber and usually stuffed with minced meat, are known to cure diabetes and aids digestion. The pallar or Lima beans are indeed indigenous Peruvian cultivated since 8000 years ago which they cook into a delicious, puree, while much earlier, 10,000 years ago the frejol (common beans) with at least 10 varieties, were already cultivated and prepared as a nutritious side dish, usually with seco de res (beef in cilantro sauce).