Cheqche Cabanita Corn

Ark of taste
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Cabanita cheqche corn is cultivated in the Colca Valley, in southern Peru. The product is characterized by grey or violet spots, irregularly laid out on the long, thin kernels. This corn, which has a conical form, is mixed with white corn before being sold, so as to give the product a touch of color. It is mainly used to prepare cancha, or corn that is toasted in a skillet.

This product’s life cycle lasts nine months: it is planted in August, during a festival that takes place in its honor, known as solay. The fields are plowed with a pair of oxen led by children, while those who plant the seeds follow. After this day of work there is a large dinner prepared, during which chicha (a corn-based drink) is consumed; the party is a relaxed moment, with songs and sharing between the workers and owners of the farms; they all thank God and celebrate the Hualca Hualca glacier which will allow the soil to be irrigated.

This corn is still used to barter, traded with charqui (dried alpaca jerky), chuno (dehydrated potatoes), and olluco (an elongated tuber). Before being sold the cobs are shelled and the kernels are divided into those of the highest quality (the biggest), second best (medium-sized), and third rate (small kernels).

This corn’s origins go back to the Incan period, or even earlier. What’s more, the production of this kind of corn is tied to various festivals, and cultural and agricultural traditions. The inhabitants of Cabanaconde hold that those who don’t cultivate this corn cannot consider themselves native.

This corn has two interesting characteristics: the cultivations are rotated (the seeds that come from higher altitudes will be planted in lower altitudes and vice versa), and there is a tendency to mix the white or red corn, in a greater quantity, with this variety to give a pleasant visual aspect to the product. This historic production area is the Cabanaconde region. Roughly 15% of all cabanita corn is of the cheqche variety. In the 720 cultivated ha, roughly 2,160 tons of corn are produced in total, and thus the quantity of the cheqche corn is about 300 tons per year.

This product is mainly cultivated for personal consumption, as consumers do not know this variety very well. It is at risk of disappearing for one main reason: it faces competition for other kinds of cabanita corn, like the white and yellow varieties, which are more commercial.

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Territory

StatePeru
Region

Cusco

Other info

Categories

Cereals and flours

Nominated by:Giacomo Stefano Bassilio Elliott