This week, special guest blogger Melissa of Teach Me About Birdwatching! offers up a tempting reflection on one of Peru’s more colorful culinary delights (one I’m most certainly adding to my “must try” list for when I visit Peru with Kolibri Expeditions this July). Over to you Melissa…

Nature is wise. We can find all of what it’s good for out bodies in nature. The properties of fruits and vegetables are unlimited and some of them still unknown.

The purple corn of Peru is a variety of Zea mays and grows in some areas of the coast and in the Andes. It’s been around for centuries, even before the Incas ruled the Andean world.

Its properties have been extensively studied worldwide, and it has some impressive credentials: It contains anthocyanin that slows down degenerative processes; as a natural antioxidant it prevents cellular aging; it prevents colon cancer; it has an anti-wrinkle action; it helps protect against cardiovascular disease; it helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels; as it helps regulate arterial pressure it is highly recommended for Hypertension; it helps increase the blood flow and stimulates diuretic action.

Now, you may wonder what you can do with purple corn. Besides the dietary supplements that are appearing all over the world, if you can actually have purple corn in your hands, you can make desserts, drinks and even fried snacks using it as powder.

My personal favorite is “Chicha Morada”, a delicious and refreshing drink obtained after boiling the purple corn in the cob, with pineapple, membrillo, cinnamon and other spices.

PHOTO OF CHICHA MORADA (Courtesy of Chicha por Gastón Acurio Cusco)

The chicha morada is consumed all over the country, and it has even over passed the giant brands of sodas. It is a reminder for Peruvians, it is good to consume our local products and give more importance to local markets in such products.

This drink’s impact is so big, that even the most known chef of Peru, Gastón Acurio, has started a venture with that name. He created a concept of restaurants that promote the regional cuisine, with products from the local area, elevating them to gourmet status.

For example, Chicha por Gastón Acurio Cusco serves among their drinks the delicious chicha morada, and uses purple corn in some dishes: “Asado de tira”, a slowly roasted strip of rib chops basted with red wine and Andean purple corn juice; or its “Urubamba salad”, tender chicken in crispy quinoa, a grain of the region, with purple corn vinaigrette dressing.

PHOTO OF URUBAMBA SALAD (Courtesy of Chicha por Gastón Acurio Cusco)

The purple corn is yet to be rediscovered in many other countries, both for its extraordinary flavor and for its “medicinal” and nutritional value. If you happen to visit Peru anytime soon, you can’t miss its “maíz morado”.