Peruvian cuisine is famous around the world, as it should be — it’s tasty, creative and fuses the flavors of multiple cultures. When you visit Peru it’s quite overwhelming how many great things you can try, the variety of produce is mind-blowing. There are 4,000 types of potatoes, for example. Slightly less abundant in variety but also up there in numbers is corn, which comes in 50 types, and colors like purple, white and black. When I was in Peru in November I visited Hacienda Sarapampa a beautiful farm which specializes in growing Giant White Corn and learned more about the history of farming this vegetable, the overall food culture in Peru and, of course, sampled farm-to-table bites. Here’s why you should make time in your Sacred Valley itinerary to explore this farm and delve into the foundation of what makes Peruvian cuisine great.
I visited Hacienda Sarapampa after exploring the Inca ruins in the valley town of Pisac which are famous for their agricultural terraces where the Incas cultivated corn. Kuoda, a personalized tour operator I booked my trip with, had selected this farm as a lunch destination and a place to learn about how this ancient grain continues to grow today. It’s unlikely that I would have found this local farm estate on my own but it stands out as one of the most memorable parts of my trip in part because there were no other tourists there.
Giant White Corn also known as choclo is the largest kernel in the world and can only be found in the Sacred Valley. It’s an extremely resilient form of corn which can withstand drastic temperature drops. It’s a popular export for Peru — you may have eaten corn from Hacienda Sarapampa if you’ve had Trader Joe’s Giant Peruvian Inca Corn. The farm has been operated by the same family for generations and during your visit you’ll learn how the corn is specially planted and harvested. You’ll also have a chance to delve into the history of corn farming and how the trade has evolved over the years.
After a walk around the property and learning so much about food you’ll have worked up an appetite and luckily you’re in for a culinary treat. Since you’re on a corn farm there were of course quite a few dishes devoted to the plant. The first course I tried was their corn soup was flavored with Huacatay and Andean cheese which had a luscious, velvety texture. The meal ended with a white corn ice cream which was accompanied by tamarillo and showcased a great blend of sweet and savory flavors. In between the first and last course I also sampled local delicacies such as grilled lake trout and alpaca tenderloin. During lunch owner Yasmin Sumar who walked us through the preparation and cooking style of each dish which the chef had prepared. While I didn’t eat this dish, I also learned about a very traditional meal served in Peru called Pachamanca. Derived from the Quechua language — pacha means earth and manka pot — it’s based on the baking with hot stones of lamb, mutton, pork, chicken or guinea pig marinated in spices. I’ll have to try this one the next time I go to Peru.