Huevo de paloma, ñuña blanca
In the Peruvian Sierra Andina, different types of legumes are grown, and in the region of Cajamarca in the country’s north, more than 50 types are registered including the ñuña blanca, also known as the ""huevo de paloma"" (egg of Colombo). The names ""ñuña blanca"" and ""huevo de paloma"" are derived from the shape and colour of this type of bean, which resembles a pigeon egg.
This variety is grown above all in Chichir, Coima, Matimbamba and Otuto, which are located at an altitude between 2400 and 3000 metres above sea level. The ñuña blanca bean is normally grown in symbiosis with corn: the stem of the corn plant acts as a natural protector of the bean plant, while the latter improves the soil’s fertility, being a good nitrogen fixative.
This variety of plant is particularly sensitive to the sun’s light and to temperature fluctuations; the ñuña blanca bean is sown shortly after the corn, and has a cultivation period of approximately 8 months. The pod contains a variable number of legumes in a creamy white colour, small in size. The beans can be eaten either fresh or dried, ensuring they are available during the winter months.
The ñuña blanca bean is used in salads, legume and tuber soups, or to accompany cecina, a salty and dried meat, or in stews.
Thanks to the starch contained in this variety, when the bean is fried or roasted it expands until exploding, just like corn does when making popcorn. This is done using a terracotta pot heated on a wood-fired stove.
The legume popping technique is very common among local farmers, who save the burst beans directly in their pockets to eat them during the long working days. The ñuña blanca in fact boasts excellent nutritional properties in terms of protein, carbohydrates and mineral salts.
The majority of production is destined for personal consumption and only a small part of the harvest is normally sold at the local markets.