Culture, Food Culture

Corn After Sowing

Fresh White Corn (Alonzo Riley)

Corn is one of the most important foods that has been since ancient times. Although a native of Mexico, in our country, Peru, corn found a perfect climate for its growth. Our Sacred Valley of the Incas is a fertile valley suitable for it. This whole valley has extensive lands that produce corn such as Huayllabamba, the place where the best corn is harvested, that with the largest grains, “the giant white corn”, which today is exported abroad.

To harvest corn, it is customary for us to rely on Ayni. This is the practice of reciprocity and of group work. It has been maintained since the time of the Incas. This collective work consists in calling together the family, neighbors, and friends to help in the laborious task of the harvest.

From very early in the morning the work is distributed to those assembled. When work groups are formed, all of them are served a good breakfast which includes corn with cheese, Andean ají, the uchucuta (hot sauce), potatoes, moraya or a concentrated soup called chairo andino, to have good energy to work.

After breakfast each group carries out the work given them. Within these groups, there is a group of women who are responsible for distributing chicha to the workers. This drink is essential because it provides energy and strength during work.

Another group is responsible to cut the corn stems from the base with a tool called Hichuna or segadera, while another group stacks all the cut stems and places them in strategic places in groups of 15 to 20 stems. They make an inverted “v” so that the corn does not rot and its cons and grains are well preserved.

After this process, the corn is left exposed to the sun for a period of not less than one month, until it is semi-dry.

Now, family and friends are summoned again to carry out another process of corn, which is shucking. In a large patio, the semi-dry corn with all the leaves and leaves is placed on blankets in the middle. Women sit around and little by little shuck the corn.

While they work they comadrear. This means that they are telling things of their lives and thus, without their realizing it, the work progresses more quickly.

For the defoliation they use a tool called bujo which is made of reed or wood. The tip is sharpened so that it can break the top of the corn ear making it is easy to open it and remove the husks, leaving the ears of corn.

After this process, when all the husking corn is already started, we begin to select ears according to the varieties of corn. We remove the grains and place them on large blankets on flat land to finish drying. After this process the corn is saved in big, ceramic jars inside the house.

These processes are very laborious, but the people do it with much emotion. They respect the traditions that come down from Inca times when corn was a sacred grain from which the sacred drink, chicha, was brewed.

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