Corn or Choclo, as it is known in Peru, is one of the basic ingredients in the daily diet of hundreds of thousands for thousands of years. Here we have more than 30 varieties in all the colors and sizes you can imagine. All delicious, but the giant corn of Cusco is one of the best. Its grains are huge and with a boiled corn with a piece of cheese you already have a complete meal.
With the Choclo or Corn we make Tamales, Humitas, sweet and savory cakes, Cancha Salada, breads, soups, Chupes (thick Andean soups), lawas (light soups made with sweet corn), or we only consume it boiled and served with artisanal fresh cheese or with one of the many types of Serrano Cheese (Andean), or with chili sauces. It is interesting to note that, despite the large amounts of corn we consume, this is not a country where Tortillas or Arepas are eaten, as in many other corn-producing countries.
You can find frozen Choclo or Corn in supermarkets in the United States, where they sell Latin American ingredients.
Hard yellow corn is sown almost all year round in Peru, especially on the Peruvian coast.
The hard yellow corn is a transitory crop whose vegetative period is from 4.5 to 5.5 months depending on the variety and the sowing date, its sowing and harvesting is throughout the year, being its sowing peaks in the months of September and February and their harvests in June and December.
On the North Coast, in the regions of Piura, Lambayeque and La Libertad, corn sowing is concentrated in the months of December to April, varying depending on the availability of irrigated water, with harvests from May to September.
History of Inca Corn
Inca Corn is a native grass of the Americas, but before this food acquired world fame and gastronomic presence, some eight thousand years ago, corn was already domesticated in America and enjoyed a significant presence in the ancient cultures of our continent, among they are the most important: Inca, Maya and Aztec. It is known that these three cultures, with many similarities, established their economy and diet based on corn, this being one of the main reasons why it was included as an element present in most of their rites and festivities.
One of the most important rituals of the Inca calendar was the Capacocha or Capac Hucha, translated as “royal obligation”. This ritual consisted of holding festivals and offerings of recognition and gratitude to the Inca ancestor Mama Huaco, who had given the Inca empire the first corn.
According to historians, one or more children from the four regions of Tahuantinsuyo sent to Cuzco, chosen for their exceptional beauty and physical perfection. Once reunited in the imperial city, the priests carried out the sacrifice of some animals and together with the Inca, they officiated symbolic marriages between the children of both sexes.
After the celebration, the entourage would go to the place where they would make the offering, singing rhythmic songs in honor of the Inca. The children were dressed in the best clothes and they were given chicha (corn alcohol) to drink until they were drunk. Once asleep they were deposited in a well under the ground, accompanied by exquisite offerings within which they included corn. This ritual would offer a good harvest.
In this way, it is understandable that in all the funerary bundles of pre-Columbian cultures found to date, corn is present as part of a precious and special offering.
Also in Peru, Inca Corn is present in various ceramics, mantles and engravings on the walls of various cultures and even today we can appreciate how various clothes of some typical Peruvian dances are adorned with corn grains.
How many types of corn there are in Perú?
Perú has 35 types of corn, more than any other country in the world, including among them the impressive ears of the mountains, which, in addition to the size of their grains, stand out for their incomparable flavor. For this reason, unlike other regions of America, Peru is distinguished by the consumption of corn cooked on the cob, in addition to the ground in the batán. In Peru, eating corn, cooked or toasted, is an ancient and pre-Columbian custom. The peasants reserve the corn, according to its variety, for special occasions and dishes, so much so that at harvest time, freshly cooked corn is offered by “the homemade ones” with spicy sauce and local cheese. Corn boiled in mote is different from the one used roasted in the field, the one used for chicha or for humitas. Other varieties are, instead, suitable for porridge or soups.
Preparation of the Dishes
There are regional varieties in the preparation of corn stews. Pepián is very popular in the north, a stew made with grated corn mixed with a choked onion, garlic and chili pepper, which acquires a particular flavor when cooked with prey of turkey. In Arequipa, you eat the bachelor (with beans, corn, onion and dressings with fresh cheese). In the jungle, one of the typical stews, the inchi cachi, is made with chicken boiled in a stew of roasted corn and peanuts. Among the desserts the sanguito is known (made with yellow corn flour, butter, raisins and chancaca). In addition to the classic purple mazamorra, which we will talk about later. In addition, corn has been adapted to international cuisine. They are delicious, for example, the shelled corn cake with mozzarella cheese or with béchamel sauce or a rich lasagna with soft corn. On the other hand, reference should be made to purple corn sorbets, which are beginning to cause a stir in the world of ice cream parlor.
The Chicha from Cusco
The traditional drink of Cusco and the Peruvian Andes is chicha de jora. According to studies by researcher Eleana Llosa, there are people specialized in producing the input, who soak the yellow corn in barrels, then let it germinate in ponds made in the ground and then in the open air, covering the grain with straw until it grows the outbreak. The corn converted into jora is taken to special markets where it is ground into small pieces. In the picanterías or chicherías, the jora is boiled on the stove, with water and corn flour, for several hours, and then strained into the isanga, which is a basket filled with straw. With the resulting bagasse, another boil is prepared, with new water. Both cooked are left to ferment in chombas or clay containers and then mixed, adding the leftover concho from the previous day so that the chicha acquires a sufficient alcoholic degree. At the end, a mixture of water cooked with flour and sugar is usually added. Chicha should be drunk the same day to avoid excess fermentation and loss of foam.
Purple Porridge of Corn
Purple corn is a genetic mutation in corn. It flourishes cultivated or in the wild state in various parts of America. Purple corn was grown in Peru in pre-Hispanic times and was known as moro sara or kulli sara. It is also cultivated by the peasants of Yucatán and the indigenous Hobi and Navajo tribes in the United States. However, it is Peru where its cultivation is most widespread and where it is massively used to make soft drinks, sorbets and desserts. Chicha morada is a traditional drink from the Peruvian coast. It is prepared with purple corn boiled in water with pineapple and quince peel and with a little cinnamon and cloves; once cold, it is sweetened with sugar and seasoned with lemon juice and fine pieces of fresh fruit (apple, pineapple or quince). The mazamorra made on the basis of corn is of pre-Hispanic origin. Various chroniclers give an account of the motalsa or ishkupcha of yellow corn prepared in pre-Hispanic times with a little quicklime. In colonial times, a new dessert emerged by mixing local products, such as purple corn and sweet potato flour, with sugar and with a variety of dried and compote fruits (chilli, sour cherries, dried apricots, openers, apple, and quince). from Spain. The fondness for this dessert made the saying “Lima mazamorrero” spread, popularized by the writer Ricardo Palma, author of the famous Peruvian Traditions.
If you want to taste the Inca Corn, definetely you should visit Cusco, and tour some impressive destinations like the rainbow mountain tour, the humantay lake tour, or the sacred valley tour, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Perú, other archaeological places you can know will be the machu picchu day tours from cusco.