Existing an evolutionary sequence in Peruvian
culture, its technology and agricultural produce is also consequence of
cultural evolution since the first farmers in a pre-ceramic epoch were
possibly the men of Chilca in the southern coast of Peru. According to
archaeology they began developing incipient agriculture about 5 to 7
thousand years ago cultivating squash, pumpkins, lima beans, and
probably also chilies, cotton, ginger, "lucuma" (a small brown nut-like
fruit) and prunes. By 6275 B.C. Peruvian Man began cultivating "proto-maize"
and about 3,400 years ago peanuts. After different stages of adaptation
and acclimatization all over the Peruvian territory, developed
agriculture in Qosqo was started with the Marcavalle and Chanapata
cultures around 1000 B.C. This farming evolution arrived to the
Tawantinsuyo with many cultivated products and increasingly developing
One of the biggest realizations of the Tawantinsuyo was to eradicate
starvation, through constant biological research, acclimatization,
domestication of wild plants for human consumption, and very intensive
work. The Quechuas having two well-defined natural seasons, in their
rainy season and part of the dry were devoted to agriculture and in
their dry season were constructors and artisans. Few ancient
civilizations in the world developed a farming substructure with
characteristics that were found here. Just take a look at farmlands near
Qosqo in order to imagine the Tawantinsuyo's deep farming conviction,
where all the valleys and flatlands were cultivated. They took advantage
even of dry and rocky mountain slopes where farming terraces were built;
to construct them all urged qualified technology and very intensive work.
When making the terraces, at first stone retaining walls were built and
then the empty spaces were filled up with stones or sand in the lower
part and the upper side with fertile soil brought in certain cases from
some kilometers away. All these farming terraces were totally irrigated
with aqueducts that almost always went over many kilometers from their
harnessings in springs, rivers or lakes. Moreover, in order to keep
humidity of the fertile soil that was about one meter deep, there was a
clay layer between fertile and sterile soils. Normally, cameloid manure,
island birds' manure or some other fertilizers and even anchovies (in
the coast) were used. Fertile mountains were and are still cultivated;
today, it is also possible to find farmlands on mountain slopes with
inclinations of even 30 or 35 degrees.
Agriculture since immemorial times was and still is closely tied to
certain divinities and different astral bodies. Andean people believed
and still believe that without help from their gods they could not
develop good farming. Cultivating the " Pachamama" (Mother Earth) urges
profound faith and conviction, and support of ceremonies and magical-religious
rituals; frequently, she must get offerings in form of what
traditionally people name " payments" or " dispatches", otherwise she
could show her annoyance and punish the humans. The Tayta Inti (Father
Sun), the Mama Killa (Mother Moon), and the stars forming different
constellations also determine crops and Andean people know how to
observe them as well as their different variations. They perform their
activities according to their observation; so for example, it is broadly
known that brightness of some constellations must be observed because
the brighter their stars are seen the lesser rains they will get in the
next farming season.
Acquired techniques and knowledge were really impressive. Some poor
lands, as it happens today, were cultivated alternating crops and some
times they were left to "relax"; that means that they were not
cultivated for determined periods in order to allow them recover
naturally their mineral richness. Obviously, working conditions were
very hard because just human strength was used. The most symbolic
farming tool they used was the Taqlla or Chakitaqlla which is a foot-plow
consisting of a wooden stick having a metal or another harder wood head.
That tool is introduced into the earth with a hard kick and the help of
arms and the whole body; it removes the soil when taken out. Another
very diffused tool was the star-shaped or round stone club used as bend
or hammer to wear clods away.
It is a really difficult task to do an inventory of all the cultivated
and consumed vegetable products in ancient Peru. Modern world recognizes
that approximately 60% of the vegetables consumed today all over the
world are native from this part of the earth. That is, adapted,
domesticated, acclimatized and even hybridized by our ancient cultures.
The most important products in the Tawantinsuyo's daily diet were the "
Sara" - Maize or Corn- (Zea Mays) and " Papa" - Potato- (Solanum
tuberosum). Maize in its primitive form began being cultivated over here
since the year 6,275 B.C. (Verified by Earle Smith Jr., N.Y. 1980, based
in some samples gathered in the "Guitarrero" cave, Ancash), while that
in Mexico (samples of the "El Riego" cave, Tehuacan) since the year
5,200 B.C. approximately. Nevertheless, no where else in the world it
was or it is still cultivated maize of the same quality found in the
inter-Andean Valleys of Qosqo. In the Urubamba Valley the variety of
maize "Parakay" or "White" has the biggest and best flavor in the world.
Not even in Mexico is there such a number of varieties that over here
are so easily found (approximately 150). Besides, potatoes are possibly
the most important heritage that Peruvian culture gave to mankind.
Potatoes are the tubers that nowadays people eat even in the farthest
away remote corners of the world. They may be cultivated from the sea
level to the edge of the high barren plains over 4200 mts. (13800 ft.).
Before 6000 BC nomadic people began collecting wild potatoes in the
areas of Qosqo and the Titicaca Lake. Surely, ancient Peruvians who were
very skillful in this art, had to devote many centuries in order to
domesticate potato plants which in their savage state are bitter and
insipid. Solanum tuberosum is the common potato known throughout the
world; it has eight species and thousands of varieties. Today, in the
different continents it is normal to find about five or seven varieties
of potatoes, while that in the Andean Region of Qosqo about 3000
different varieties are cultivated commercially. Besides, in
laboratories of the International Potato Center in Lima about 5000 are
found. Some other important crops that began being broadly used in
modern nourishment are Quinua (Chenopodium quinoa) from which there are
hundreds of varieties -some writers call it "mountain rice" or "Indian
rice"- and Kiwicha (Amaranthus caudatus) also known as Amaranth or
Achita . Some years ago Amaranth was introduced in North-American
astronauts' diet. In some Andean towns there is a tradition which tells
that in the Tawantinsuyo its consumption was intensive, but the conquest
came and the Spanish invaders discovered that it was too rich a cereal
and they thought that if "Indians" continued eating it they would get
stronger and more intelligent than the Europeans. So taking advantage of
evangelization they forbade its consumption arguing that Jesus Christ
never ate it and its name did not exist in the Bible.
Following are some of Peru's most common native vegetable products that
were and still are basic in nourishment of people in the Andes. Many
names have no translation or equivalents in English:
SPICES AND SEASONINGS.- Chiqchipa, Congona, Kunuca, Manka P'aki,
Marancera, Misk'iuchu, Muña (Mint), Pumakiro, Quilquiña, Roqoto (Hot
Pepper), Piris (Chili), Wakatay (Black Mint), etc.
EDIBLE FLOWERS.- Achuma, Ch'uku, Qontoya, Wiqontoy, Mutuy, Pataw,
Pisonay, Quillkiña, Kiswar, Soronto, Uchu-Uchu, etc.
VEGETABLES.- Achupalla, Awaimantu, Airampo, Akhana, Api-Tara, Kaiguas,
Qochayuyo (Aquatic Algae), Habinka, Hat'aqo, Lakawiti (Squash),
Llulluch'a, Tomato, Camona (Palmetto), Cayara, Chamay, Chauka-Chauka,
Zapallo (Pumpkin), etc.
FRUITS.- Achupalla (Pineapple), Aratiku (Soursop), Caimito, Qapuli (Sour
Cherry), Qupuasu and some other sorts of Cocoa, Custard apple or Bullock
heart, Qoqona, Cashew nut or Cashew apple, Hawaq'ollay (Giant-Cactus),
Masasamba, Pani or Pijuayo, Pucha (Papaya), Toqte (Walnut), Elderberry,
Cyphomandra or Tree-tomato, Ubos (Plum), Umari, Inchiq (Peanut), Cashum
(Cucumber), Matus (Guava), Pakay, Palltay (Avocado), Palillo, Ruqma or
Lucuma, Sapote, Shupe or Sicana, Taqso or Tumbo, Tintin (Pomegranate),
Tuna (Prickly-Pear), etc. It seems that there is some sort of native
BULBS, ROOTS, TUBERS.- Amka (Potato), Apichu (Sweet-Potato), Flour
Kumara, Arracacia or Viraka, Ginger, Ashipa or Jiquima, Llakjon or
Llacon, Maka, Tropaeolum or Añu, Oxalis or Oca, Sachapapa, Xanthosoma or
Unqucha, Ullucus or Olluko, Yuka (Manioc or Cassava), Achankaray
(Begonia), Ckoto- Ckoto, etc.
CEREALS.- Sara (Maize), Quinua, Qañihua, Kiwicha (Amaranth), Achis,
LEGUMES.- Cazza or Parka, Kidney Beans, Lima Beans, String Beans,
Pashuru, Tarwi (Lupine Beans).
MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS.- Kachi (Salt), Chako (edible clay), Pasa or Pasalla
(another whiter clay), Catawi or Isku (Lime, it contains calcium),
vegetal ashes (for example, for soaking and pre-cooking corn in order to
prepare mote or mot'e), Llipt'a (small black ball made from ashes of
qañiwa, quinua and some other plants in order to chew coca leaves), etc.
A really broad field was that of Andean natural drugs and medicaments
among which there are thousands of medicinal plants. Their
characteristics and properties are known by the healers (Hampiq or
Hampiqamayoq) and all common people. Andean traditional medicine has
always direct relationship with ancestral gods and some other
Likewise, meat consumption was largely practiced in Inkan nourishment.
Early chroniclers stated that supplies that filled the storehouses (
Qollqa or Pirwa) were mainly dry or dehydrated food, kept in that state
in order to ensure its storage and consumption in long time periods.
Among those goods were Dry Corn, Chuño (dehydrated potatoes), Ch'arki
(Charqui or Jerk: salted dry South-American cameloid's meat) and salted
dry fish. Fishing in the sea by that time included all the commercial
fish and mollusk species also captured today, preferring Tuna Fish and
Tollo. The fish species being abundant in rivers and lakes were the
Gona, Catfish, White Sardine of the Urubamba River, the Chakechallwa or
Golden in Huanuco, the Suqui or King Fish of the Chili River, Cachuela
or Karachi, the Mauri Suchi, Lluchcca, Ahuacuyamor, Kakas, Umani,
Chichiñi or Ispi, Qoyche, Qoriochoque, Moro, etc. Moreover, some other
aquatic species were eaten such as the Mayupuma or Amazon Otter; and
wild or domesticated turtles in tropical zones. Also wild fowl were
hunted but mainly nursed including different species of ducks,
partridges, turkeys and hens. Likewise, the diet was completed with
White-Lipped Peccaries, Collared Peccaries and Capybaras; as well as
herbivorous animals as the Anta, Tapir, Awara, Sachavaca, Deer, Guemal,
etc. Without any doubt, the most important dish was the Qowi, Cuy or
Guinea Pig, which was domesticated and nursed in the houses' kitchens.
It has very rich meat and was and still is considered a magical animal.
The biggest amount of red meats, though, came from South-American
cameloids; that is, Alpacas, Llamas, Vicunas and Guanacos. Special
alpacas and llamas were domesticated and nursed in large numbers; they
were also a good supply of quality wool, milk, and served as pack