Pacay (Inga feuillei), also known as guaba, is a South American native leguminous plant; it is also found in parts of Central America. In Peru it has been grown since the times of the Inca empire, especially in the Andes and along the coast. Apparently, Francisco Pizarro himself found this plant in the San Francisco de Trujillo bay – currently in the department of La Libertad – at the time of his conquest of Peru.
Pacay is able to adapt to different tropical climates as well as to dry and degraded soils. Fruits are produced three times a year and the best time for the harvest is between August and October.
The fruit is a 3 to 15 cm long dark green pod, which contains black seeds and a stringy white, sweet flesh.
One of the areas where it is now grown the most is Lambayeque, particularly the Jayanca district. Here, the so-called “de los valles” varieties are used. These include the silvestre, criollo, plano or gordo and plano or gordo silvestre varieties.
The local populations use the plant for many purposes: the stem filaments are dried and used in many ways to control digestion and alleviate stomach pains, while seeds are used to fight diarrhea and rheumatisms. In the kitchen, the flesh is eaten fresh or used to make ice creams and desserts.
It is important to safeguard this culture both for the age-old link it has with these lands and the Peruvian diet, and most importantly for its limited availability beyond local markets.