Yellow Cabanita Corn

Ark of taste
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Cabanita yellow corn is cultivated in the Colca Valley, in southern Peru. This product has long and thin kernels whose husk is thick, while the cob is conical in shape. The yellow variety is cultivated more than the other types of cabanita corn because it is more accepted on the markets. It is consumed as chochoca (a mixture of corn and potatoes) or in soups, while the flour made from it is used to prepare mazamorras (a kind of corn mush used as a main or side dish) and traditional cancha, which is made with the corn when it 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 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 the white or yellow corn, in a greater quantity, with the red variety or with cheqche, to give a pleasant visual aspect to the product.

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 20% of all cabanita corn is of the yellow variety. In the 720 cultivated ha, roughly 2,160 tons of corn are produced in total, and thus the quantity of the yellow corn is about 400 tons per year. Cabanita yellow corn is currently only produced for personal consumption; however, it is extremely appreciated in the Cabanaconde region due to its sweet flavor, which is perfect for making chicha.

This product is at risk of disappearing for two reasons: the first is the preference of consumers for the other varieties, while the second is an invasion of yellow corn that comes from other regions.

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Nominated by:Giacomo Stefano Bassilio Elliott