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Grains, Coffees, Crops, Beans & Nuts of Peru
While very special "pseudograins", nuts and beans are part of the Peruvian culture and nutrition since ancient times, they were just rediscovered and gained popularity worldwide in the last few years. The international demand for Peruvian "supergrains" like Kiwicha and Quinua increases steadily, as more health-conscious people become aware of the extraordinary nutritional value of these products.
Whereas peanuts and Lima Beans conquered the world centuries ago, other native Peruvian products like Sacha Inchi or Tarwi are just on the brink of doing so. And although coffee was only introduced to Peru some decades back, Peru became one of the biggest coffee producers in the world known especially for its organic produced coffee.
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Coffee beans originated in Africa and were introduced to Peru in the 19th century. But coffee cultivation did not become common in Peru until the mid-twentiest century. In the 1990s, coffee growing was encouraged as a replacement for coca farming by several non-governmental agencies. Today the coffee industry is one of the country's most important agricultural sectors making Peru a big player in the worldwide coffee market.
Nowadays called a "supercrop", Quinua played a vital role in the Andean diet for thousands of years. The origin of Quinoa domestication appears to be located in the area around Lake Titicaca. It was an important staple food of the Incas who referred to Quinua as "mother of all grains". Small and bead-shaped, the ivory-colored quinoa cooks like rice (taking half the time of regular rice) and expands to around three times its original volume.
The Kiwicha is native to the high Peruvian Andes. Also known as Amaranth, Kiwicha is an ancient crop cultivated for thousands of years by numerous cultures including the Incas. Kiwicha seeds are slightly bigger than poppy seeds and very flavorful. They are popped to produce a crunchy white nutty popcorn which is poplar and delicious as snack, cereal or breading for chicken and fish.
Sacha Inchi, also known as Mani del Inca or Inca Peanut in English, is native to the Peruvian Amazon region and cultivated for centuries. The plant produces star shaped fruits which contain oval and dark brown seeds looking like flat, compact almonds. The Sacha Inchi seeds are rich in oils and proteins. The oil contains high levels of unsaturated fatty acid such as Omega 3, 6 & 9 and is rich in iodine, Vitamin A and E. It has a delicious mild nutty flavor.
Peanuts are believed to be of South American origin. The cultivated peanut was most probably first domesticated in the Peruvian valleys where archaeologists have found rests of mani and dated them to about 7600 years. Many pre-Columbian cultures as the Moche depicted peanuts in their art. Although peanuts are considered to be nuts culinary wise, botanically they belong to the legumes.
Tarwi is grown in the Andes since ancient times for its edible, spicy bean which was an important food for Andean cultures for centuries. The beans were found in tombs of the Nazca culture and depicted on ceramics of the Tiahuanaco. The bone-white seeds contain more than 40% protein and 20% fat, comparable in protein digestibility and nutritional value with the soybean, but until now didn't gain the popularity of it.
Pallar, known in English as Lima Beans or Butter Beans, are native to Central and South America. Big seeded varieties known as "Big Lima" were domesticated in the Peruvian Andean Mountains since ancient times. The pods contain oval to kidney shaped seeds. Immature beans are green, once mature creamy-white beans are common, although certain varieties feature colors such as green, red, purple, brown or black.
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