Cabanita granata corn is cultivated in the Colca Valley, in southern Peru. The kernels, which are long and thin, have a garnet red color, similar to pomegranate seeds. Just the same, the red color is not homogenous, but rather intense on the point of the kernel and white towards the center of the cob. This corn is sold mixed with white corn, in order to give it a touch of color.
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 today, 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 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 white or yellow corn, in a greater quantity, with this red variety or with cheqche, to give a pleasant visual aspect to the product.
Cabanita red corn is used to prepare chochoca (cooked corn that is then dried and ground) as well as maiz pelado (cooked kernels): both are used to prepare traditional soups.
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, as well as cultural and agricultural traditions. The inhabitants of Cabanaconde hold that those who don’t cultivate this corn cannot consider themselves native.
This historic production area is the Cabanaconde region. Roughly 15% of all cabanita corn is of the red variety. In the 720 cultivated ha, roughly 2,160 tons of corn are produced in total, and thus the quantity of the red corn is about 300 tons per year.
The corn is cultivated mainly for personal consumption. It is at risk of disappearing for two reasons: the commercial preference for other varieties of corn, along with a concentrated distribution in very few intermediaries, and the negative effects of climate change.