Land of the Potato Rainbow : In the Andes of Peru, dozens of ancient crops are waiting to be discovered by the outside world.


It’s late May, turning to June, harvest time in the Andes. Almost a month into the dry season, the sky is gray; the hillsides lush green, soaked with rains that defy the calendar.

In the bed of a dented white pickup truck, riding the bumps and ruts of a narrow dirt road just above Pisac, Dr. Carlos Arbizu grips the side of the vehicle with one hand and gestures toward the terraced landscape with the other.

“Do you see over there?” he asks, his voice shaking in time to the rhythm of the shuddering truck. “All the way up the mountain? Those houses come from Inca times. That’s where they used to process gold.”

The wheels slip slightly as the truck skids around a particularly intense bend, and dirt from what used to be the road a moment before rattles 2,000 feet down the steep embankment. Arbizu, unfazed, continues his commentary.


“Now, that smoke at the top of the hill, that is from the famous mud ovens, watia , in which potatoes, just harvested, are being baked for somebody’s lunch. And can you see that copper-colored field to the left? That is kiwicha , or amaranth, as you say. Over there where it turns red, that’s quinoa. And the dark patch up high--that is potato.”

The truck, driven by Dr. Gregorio Meza, director of the Cuzco-based Andean Crop Research Center, slows as the village of Paruparu comes into view.

“You know,” confides Arbizu, “I think Gregorio wants to kill us and the car.”

Peru’s ancient cities are ruins. The gold is gone. Yet the Inca empire lives on. Look at the faces of the women at the Sunday marketplace at Pisac, a bundle of hand-knit alpaca sweaters lugged on their backs, hoping to attract the attention--and American dollars--of tourists on their way to Machu Picchu. And here, in a cluster of mountain villages tenuously anchored onto the inclines of the Urubamba, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, most of the field work is done with the sweat of human labor, the tools little changed in the near half-millennium since the Spaniards arrived.


Farming terraces, many of them the same ones Francisco Pizarro saw when he came to conquer Cuzco, still blanket the steep slopes, a colorful patchwork quilt of colors--purple and magenta, orange and yellow, greens of every hue.

These are the colors of what some call the lost crops of the Incas, protein-rich treasures that the Spaniards left behind: the grains quinoa and kiwicha , the giant-kerneled corn from the valley called blanco Urubamba, the bean-like lupin seeds called tarwai , and potatoes of every size, shape and color, so varied in taste and texture that one believes the Peruvians when they talk about potato connoisseurs, as exacting as wine lovers.

And then there are the crops that few in this country have even heard of: ulluco ( ulluku in Quechua), a slippery, nutty-tasting tuber, often Day-Glo yellow freckled with scarlet; oca ( uqa in Quechua), a dimpled, odd-looking slightly sweet tuber, which Andean women eat after giving birth to regain their strength; the radish-shaped maca , perhaps the only crop in the world to produce reliable yields at an altitude of about 14,750 feet (plus, it tastes a little like butterscotch); mashua , which, for those unafraid of its famous side effect, depressed sexual appetite, contains almost as much protein as milk. Incan women, it is said, used to try to keep their husbands in line by secretly feeding them plenty of mashua before they left for battle or long journeys, a technique some Andean women still find useful.

If Peruvian farmers and scientists have their way, these crops might show up in the produce bins at your local supermarket and in the kitchens of some of the country’s best restaurants--imagine ulluco pizza at Spago. A few years of research and some bureaucratic wrangling will inevitably pass before Peru sets up a reliable importation system, as Chile has done for its agricultural products, but there are dozens of ancient crops waiting to be discovered by the outside world, crops that may one day be as economically important as wheat, corn--or the potato.

The Incas may have been the ancient world’s greatest agronomists. They hadn’t discovered iron, they didn’t have cows or oxen to work their fields, they didn’t even have a written language. But building on the knowledge of the civilizations that came before them, they transformed some of the earth’s most hostile terrain--frost-susceptible, sharp-rising mountains and valleys, with a different microclimate occurring sometimes every few feet--into fertile, productive farmland.

By the time the Spaniards arrived, the Incas had cultivated an estimated 70 different crop species, almost as many as their contemporary farmers in the “developed” societies of all Europe or all Asia.

Descendants of the Incas still use many of the ancient techniques, methods that some boutique farmers in the United States have recently adopted as models for their own sustainable agriculture systems.

Andean farmers, for instance, rarely depend on just one crop; often they work several fields, each at different elevations, with varying weather conditions. One farmer might plant 50 different grains, roots, tubers and legumes, knowing that at least some of them will survive whatever pest or disease is most virulent that year. Fields are often intercropped--quinoa and corn, for instance might be grown on the same plot. And continuous crop rotation keeps the soil in shape and helps prevent parasites.


Where heavy rains soak the hillsides, threatening crop rot, the farmers dig into the mud with foot plows as they have for thousands of years, cutting deep furrows that channel off excess water, and building up small plots that rise above the canals.

This is what Arbizu now explains, as his feet slowly sink into the brilliant green turf of the village of Quello Quello:

“You see, they are preparing the land,” he says, the hem of his wide-wale corduroy slacks soaking up mud.

Three young Andean men, each wielding a taclla , or foot plow, lean into the soil and turn over clumps of moist earth, as if working a thick biscuit dough with giant wooden spoons. “This is a pre-Inca technique,” Arbizu says, “the usual way of making the soil productive. They want to use as much land as possible. And if there is less rain next year, maybe a drought, the water will already be down there for the roots of the new crops.”

Many of the people of Quello Quello now gather for the harvest ceremony called qallpi , which includes eating boiled potatoes, ocas and mashuas with cheese. “It’s a way of asking nature for good production next season,” Meza explains. He reaches for an oca ; Arbizu grabs his second mashua . Meza shoots a look at Arbizu-- mashua , after all, is an anti-aphrodisiac.

“I’m going to have some more mashua ,” Arbizu insists, “because I am away from home.”

Back in the truck, Arbizu is feeling good. “I love the highlands,” he says. “I was born in the highlands and I started my career in the highlands. In cities like Lima, well, the people are rather neurotic.”

Raised in Peru’s remote department of Ayacucho in the central Andes, Arbizu started collecting Andean root and tuber crops some 20 years ago, and studied under the respected potato historian J.G. Hawkes in Birmingham, England. He now works as a special consultant with the International Potato Center, based in an outlying suburb of Lima.


As the truck bounces up the road, a cluster of boys, dressed in school uniforms, chases after the researchers. Meza slows, letting the kids jump in the back, saving them from the long, steep hike back home.

“If we don’t give them a lift,” Arbizu says, “they will think we are arrogant. In the highlands, people live sharing everything--sharing the crops, even sharing their problems.”

Unfortunately, there are plenty of problems to share in the highlands. The former Inca empire is among the world’s poorest regions. And the higher you go in the mountains, the worse things get. Most mountain villages have no running water or electricity; infant mortality rates are high. Still, the Andeans have fierce pride in their culture. And growing international interest in their crops--dismissed for years as the food of the poor--could mean an improved livelihood for the farmers.

Up the mountain from Quello Quello, in the village of Amaru, at 12,530 feet above sea level, where the air is thin and dizzying, a farmer squats amid the bounty of his harvest--small, neat piles of purple and pink and yellow tubers, stretched out in a row.

Dressed in a beautifully woven poncho of yellow and aqua and pink, he picks up one of the several different potatoes that surround him. It is knobby all over and almost looks like a pine cone.

“This,” says the farmer in his native Quechua language, “is the potato we call puka pina .”

“ ‘Puca’ is red in Quechua,” Arbizu explains. “And ‘pina’ is pineapple. You know in pre-Inca time, when a young lady was going to get married, she had to show to her future mother-in-law that she was going to be a good wife by peeling this very difficult potato, with the knife. If she succeeded, the relationship between the young lady and her future mother-in-law was going to be OK. If not, the relationship was no good.”

Now the farmer points out a potato that is usually boiled, then another that is usually baked. He picks up two bitter potatoes, dark and purplish, which are used for chuno , potatoes that are freeze-dried and preserved as insurance against years of drought and failed crops, using an ancient method that pre-dates Bird’s Eye by hundreds of years.

Chuno is a staple food,” Arbizu says, “and it goes into the soups of the highlands called chairo . You know, they say a chairo without chuno is like life without love.”

The farmer boasts that in his community, 150 different cultivars--roots, tubers, grains and legumes--are grown. And, he says, they use no chemical fertilizers.

“This farmer is a conservationist,” Arbizu says. “He plants a lot of different potatoes as a way of insurance. If one variety fails, he’s got several others.

“You know in most countries, the potato requires a tremendous amount of pesticides. Here, there are no chemical fertilizers, no pesticides. It’s the diversity of crops that allows this to be so. And also manure.”

It’s far from a perfect system. Part of this year’s potato crop was attacked by a fungus here. And it’s getting harder, the farmer says, to maintain the diversity of crops. Just 28 years old, he’s already seen a dramatic decline in the number of locally grown crop types. He remembers a time when his village grew 70 varieties of potatoes alone.

When the Spaniards conquered Peru, they tried to suppress native crops and farming systems--they failed. In the ‘60s, outside aid organizations pumped subsidy money into the country and persuaded many farmers to grow rice, wheat and other non-native crops, many of which did not thrive in the oxygen-deprived heights of the Peruvian altiplano, and all of which required machine-driven farming techniques and expensive chemical pesticides. Still, the ancient crops survived.

These days, aid organizations, CARE among them, have changed their policies to encourage the preservation and development of native crops. The International Potato Center collects wild and native samples of potatoes and other tuber crops, and has interbred many of them in developing new pest- and disease-resistant breeds that are also high-yielding. Dr. Carlos Ochoa (no relation), who discovered at least 80 of the 230 known wild potato species but worked for much of his 40-year career with little recognition or funding, has in recent years collected several international awards, including the Organization of American States’ highest scientific honor, the $30,000 Bernardo Hossay Prize. He’s even picked up a pop-culture sobriquet: the Indiana Jones of the potato world.

But just as the outside world has come to realize the potential of Andean agriculture, the ancient crops and ways of farming have come under attack again--not just by outsiders, but from within.

Social and economic pressures--encroaching development, terrorist attacks on farmers, and especially the decline of the highland economy--have driven farming families to leave the altiplano for the cities of Peru. They come seeking jobs, opportunity, success; most often they end up in the slums that surround every Peruvian city of significance, from Lima to Juliaca.

They are places like Villa El Salvador, a sprawling squatter district built at the foot of several huge sand dunes on the outskirts of Lima, where mud-brown is the predominant color, where to make your way through the labyrinth of dusty streets, you must stop your car several times to ask for directions because there are no street signs, where most of the jerry-built dwellings, awaiting the construction of their second and third floors, are adorned with steel reinforcement rods that reach toward the sky like so many Martian antennae. And it’s where social workers come calling on a group of women, members of a cooking co-op, gathered in a dark, but carefully swept mud-brick room, to tout a new, nutritious product for children made out of the Andean grain kiwicha --something that until a few years before these women grew themselves. When shown the new cereal, the women giggle with recognition.

Back in the Andes, in the village of Sacaca, Arbizu watches a group of women weave intricate patterns with their skeins of homemade yarn. “You know,” he says, “it is really the women who are the caretakers of this culture. These women, for example, are farmers like the men, but when they come home from the fields they still work, weave. The men can rest, but the women cannot.”

After the harvest, many of the men in these mountain villages will leave their homes to find temporary work in mines and other places. It has been this way for years, a necessary way to supplement family incomes. In their absence, the women maintain the life of the village. Women choose what gets planted and where. On this day, here in Sacaca, members of the village have gathered for a ceremony in which a high-ranking woman chooses which of the season’s potatoes will go to market and which will be used as seed for the next crop.

In the next village, Kuyo Grande, where the town’s single tractor resides, shrine-like, under an open thatched hut, another gathering occurs. Here the elevation is low enough for good harvests of corn--spotted yellow, white, pink, some red as pomegranates, some deep purple, like the ripest blackberries bursting with juice. Meza addresses the crowd. He is announcing a contest, sponsored by the University of Cuzco, to see which of the area’s 14 villages can demonstrate the most agricultural diversity. It’s his way of getting the Andeans to preserve their ancient traditions, their culture.

The only problem is, Meza has yet to determine a deadline, or even a prize.

As the light fades and the researchers pile into the pickup for the long, dark ride back to Cuzco, one villager pulls aside a visitor from the United States: “Can you tell me, please,” he asks, “how we can buy a VCR?” VHS, preferred.


Peru’s most famous chef in the United States was undoubtedly the late Felipe Rojas-Lombardi. In the ‘80s he owned and cooked in the Ballroom, New York’s very hip tapas restaurant, where he used classic French cooking techniques to modernize and popularize traditional Spanish cuisine. He died in 1991, before he had a chance to do the same for the food of his native Peru. But just before his death, he completed “The Art of South American Cooking” (HarperCollins), a cookbook in which the soup called chairo and the stews called atamalados get proper respect.

Atamalados, for instance, usually combine meat, chicken or seafood with a grain--rice, barley, orzo pasta or, best of all, quinoa. Beautiful, fiery red annatto--or achiote seeds--are used both to color and flavor the stew. (The seeds, when cooked, turn food bright - yellow; when you buy them they should be red. If they are brown or dark - burgundy, they’ve lost not only their color but much of their flavor as well.)



2 pounds lean pork loin, leg, or shoulder

Garlic-Cumin Marinade

2 dried ancho chiles, seeded

1 fresh or dried mirasol chile or dried red chile, seeded


1 fresh jalapeno or arbol or serrano chile, seeded and roasted

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons Achiote Oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons coarse salt

6 cups Boiled Quinoa, plus 3 cups cooking liquid or water

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Wipe pork with damp kitchen cloth. Cut into 2-inch cubes and place in stainless-steel bowl.

Pour Garlic-Cumin Marinade over cubed pork and mix thoroughly. Cover bowl and set aside to marinate 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in refrigerator.

Crumble dried ancho and mirasol chiles into bowl. Add 1/2 cup warm water. Soak 15 minutes. Place chiles with soaking liquid and roasted jalapeno chile in blender or work bowl of food processor and puree. Set aside.

Drain pork and pat cubes dry with paper towels. Heat vegetable oil and Achiote Oil in large, heavy saucepan over high heat. Add pork cubes and quickly brown evenly on all sides, stirring. Transfer to large plate and set aside.

Add onions, garlic and salt to saucepan. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until onions are golden around edges, about 8 minutes. Add pureed chiles and cook 5 minutes more, stirring constantly, until all liquid has evaporated.

Add reserved quinoa cooking liquid, blend thoroughly and heat to boiling. Add pork with juices left on plate and Boiled Quinoa. Stir, lower heat and gently simmer 30 minutes, or until pork is tender. If pork is not tender after 30 minutes and quinoa has dried out too much, add additional water and continue cooking until pork is tender. Quinoa should be moist. Adjust seasonings to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

599 calories; 1,269 mg sodium; 68 mg cholesterol; 29 grams fat; 52 grams carbohydrates; 33 grams protein; 3.86 grams fiber.

Note : Quinoa is available in most health food stores. Annatto seeds can be bought in most Latino food stores and in the specialty sections of grocery stores.

* Garlic-Cumin Marinade

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

In mortar with pestle, pound garlic, salt, white pepper and cumin to smooth paste. Add vinegar and mix well.

* Achiote Oil

1 cup olive or vegetable oil

1/2 cup annatto (achiote) seeds

1 dried red or serrano chile, crumbled

1 bay leaf

Combine oil, annatto seeds, red chile and bay leaf in small saucepan. Let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

Place saucepan over low heat and bring to gentle boil while stirring. Immediately remove from heat and cool thoroughly, stirring occasionally.

Pour oil through fine sieve or through strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Discard chile and bay leaf and check color of annatto seeds. Oil is now ready to use or store. To store, pour into jar, tightly cover and refrigerate up to 1 year. Makes about 1 cup.

* Boiled Quinoa

2 1/3 cups quinoa

Pour quinoa into large bowl of cold water and wash, rubbing between hands. Drain. Repeat until water is clear, usually 2 washings.

Combine quinoa with 8 to 10 cups cold water in stockpot. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes, or until barely cooked. Quinoa is done when all grains turn translucent. Remove quinoa from heat and pour through strainer, draining well. Do not rinse. Fluff with fork to cool, if desired. Quinoa may be stored in tightly covered container in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 6 to 7 cups.


When making this soup from Rojas-Lombardi, remember the words of Dr. Carlos Arbizu: “A chairo without chuno is like life without love.” Chairo is considered Bolivian, but it’s really pan-Andean--its key ingredient is chuno-- freeze-dried bitter potatoes that are eaten throughout the highlands. Chuno is available in Peruvian grocery stores, sold dry in bags or canned. Harder to find is another main chairo ingredient--charqui, or dried llama meat. Beef is used here.


(Andean Beef and

Vegetable Soup)

1/2 pound chuno, drained if canned

3 1/2 to 4 pounds beef chuck

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

3 stalks celery, with tops, cut into pieces

2 medium onions, cut into quarters

1 small head garlic, cut in half horizontally

2 dried mirasol chiles or red chiles

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

4 sprigs Italian parsley

Coarse salt

3 quarts homemade Beef Stock or canned

1/2 cup barley, rinsed and drained

1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup canned white hominy, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Soak chuno in warm water 2 to 4 hours. Drain well and squeeze gently between kitchen towels to extract excess water. Peel away outer skin. If using chuno-tunte, drain and rinse well, then pat dry with towels. Set aside.

Wipe beef with damp kitchen cloth and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Place on baking sheet, sprinkle with pepper and broil as close to source of heat as possible, turning to brown all sides, about 10 minutes.

Combine browned beef, celery, quartered onions, garlic, chiles, cumin, parsley sprigs, 1 tablespoon salt and Beef Stock in stockpot and bring to boil. Lower heat and let simmer about 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is tender. Remove meat and set aside.

Strain broth through strainer lined with double layer of cheesecloth, squeezing and pressing to extract all juices. Let broth stand few minutes until fat rises to surface. Degrease thoroughly and discard fat. Approximately 9 cups broth should remain. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Combine broth, reserved meat, barley, chuno, diced onion, carrot and potatoes in large saucepan or casserole and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add hominy and continue cooking 15 minutes more, or until vegetables and barley are tender. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve at once. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

*Beef Stock

4 large onions, cut into 8 pieces

2 to 3 leeks, trimmed, rinsed and cut into 3 pieces each

1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally

8 stalks celery, with tops, cut into pieces

2 small carrots, sliced

6 pounds beef bones, preferably marrow and knuckle bones

8 pounds veal bones, preferably shank, knuckle bones and feet

1 oxtail, cut into small pieces


8 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

35 sprigs thyme

24 black peppercorns

2 to 3 jalapeno or arbol chiles or 1 to 2 dried red chiles, optional

Place onions, leeks, garlic, celery and carrots in large roasting pan. Arrange beef and veal bones and oxtail on top of vegetables. Place roasting pan in upper third of 500-degree oven. Bake 1 hour.

Transfer bones and vegetables to large stockpot. Pour off and discard fat from roasting pan. Deglaze roasting pan by adding 4 cups water and bringing to full boil over high heat, constantly scraping to release bits stuck to pan. Pour into stockpot.

Add 11 quarts water, cloves, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns and chiles. Bring to boil, skimming foam as rises to surface. Lower heat, stir, cover and simmer about 5 hours.

Remove stock from heat and let cool. Strain through fine sieve or strainer lined with double layer of cheesecloth. Discard bones, vegetables and herbs. Let stock stand 10 to 15 minutes to allow fat to rise to surface.

Degrease by scooping off fat with ladle. If stock will not be used immediately, store in refrigerator without degreasing. Degrease before using by removing hardened layer of fat from surface. Makes about 8 quarts.


Where chuno, made with bitter potatoes, is frozen raw and then stomped on to press out any remaining moisture, papa seca--available in Southern California in Peruvian markets--is boiled before being frozen and is not pressed. In Rojas-Lombardi’s recipe, the papa seca is quickly sauteed with peanuts, chiles, garlic and Achiote Oil.


(Andean Potatoes)

1 pound papa seca


3 dried ancho chiles, seeded and cut into pieces

3 tablespoons Achiote Oil or olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped

Place papa seca in colander and shake to remove any powder. Transfer to bowl, cover with water, then drain, discarding water. Add 6 cups cold water to washed potatoes and let soak overnight at room temperature or in refrigerator. Drain and set aside.

In small bowl, soak ancho chiles in 1 1/2 cups warm water about 15 minutes, or until soft. Pour softened chiles with soaking liquid into blender or work bowl of food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

Heat Achiote Oil and garlic in hot skillet, 1 to 2 seconds. Do not burn garlic. Mix in onion and saute over medium heat 5 minutes. Add pepper mixture and salt. Mix well and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid evaporates and spoon leaves track on bottom of pan, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add peanuts and stir 1 minute. Add drained papa seca, folding in half at time. Mix well and heat over very low heat, stirring and scraping occasionally, until potatoes are hot and fluffy, about 25 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot. Makes 10 servings.


Common wisdom among the expatriate community in Peru has it that the best Peruvian cooks are those who claim they can’t cook--what they mean is they can’t cook fancy Frenchified stuff. These “non-cooks” can almost always cook Peruvian home-style dishes, food that is delicious but considered too humble for company. This is one of those secret dishes--and if ollucos (ullucos, to the scientists) could ever make it into this country fresh, it’s unlikely olluquitos would remain hidden for long. Until then, we’ll have to make due with canned ollucos, available in most Peruvian grocery stores. This recipe is adapted from one in the out-of-print “Peruvian Cooking Art” by Josefina Brusco de Liberti. If you come across some dried llama meat, feel free to substitute for the beef.


1/4 pound carne seca (dried beef)


1 clove garlic

2 to 3 mirasol chiles or habanero chiles, minced

Cumin seeds

Annatto seeds, optional

1 small onion, chopped

Dash oregano



2 cups julienned ollucos or yellow Finnish potatoes

1/2 tablespoon parsley

Cooked white rice, optional

Toast carne seca lightly on dry grill or in skillet. Place in bowl of warm water and let soak 4 hours or overnight, changing water several times. When meat is soft, shred to get about 1 cup.

Coat skillet with oil and heat. Lightly saute garlic. Add minced chiles, cumin and annatto seeds to taste and saute. Add chopped onion, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until liquid leaves onions. Add shredded meat and saute. Add ollucos and saute. Adjust seasonings to taste. Garnish with parsley. Serve with rice. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

144 calories; 1,065 mg sodium; 12 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 0.88 gram fiber.


This isn’t a traditional Peruvian dish, but it is a delicious use of the Andean grain quinoa. The recipe comes from Rojas-Lombardi’s “The Art of South American Cooking.”


1 1/2 cups quinoa

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup dark-brown sugar, packed

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 cup dark rum

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 tablespoon powdered sugar

Creme fraiche or whipped cream, optional

Place quinoa in fine sieve, rinse under cold running water and drain.

Combine quinoa with 8 cups water in saucepan. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until quinoa is barely tender. Do not overcook. Remove from heat, pour quinoa through fine strainer and let drain. Do not rinse.

Cream butter and sugar together in mixing bowl until fluffy. Add eggs 1 at time. Beat well. Stir in cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, lemon zest, rum, milk and cream. Mix well.

In separate mixing bowl, combine quinoa and walnuts. Thoroughly fold in creamed butter mixture. Pour batter into 9-inch round cake pan coated with about 1 tablespoon butter.

Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven, place on rack and allow to cool thoroughly. Unmold cake and place on serving platter. Place powdered sugar in fine sieve and dust over surface of cake. Serve with creme fraiche. Makes about 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

435 calories; 60 mg sodium; 151 mg cholesterol; 23 grams fat; 45 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 1.82 grams fiber.


Stirred with cream and cheese, quinoa takes on a consistency almost like polenta. In this recipe, from the International Potato Center in Lima, the creamed quinoa is topped with sauteed tomatoes and onions.



1/2 large onion, diced

1 clove garlic

1 large tomato, diced

1 cup quinoa


1/4 pound ranchero cheese, diced

1/2 cup half and half


Coat skillet with oil and heat. Lightly saute onion and garlic. Add tomato and saute until tomato is heated through and onion is translucent. Set aside.

Rinse and pick through quinoa, removing any stones. Heat 4 cups water and salt to taste in large saucepan until boiling. Add quinoa in thin stream to boiling water. Cook, stirring often, about 30 minutes, until water is absorbed.

Heat half and half to just below boil. Slowly pour hot half and half into quinoa, gradually incorporating cheese and stirring constantly until creamy. Top with sauteed onion and tomato. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 cups or 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

190 calories; 125 mg sodium; 33 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 1.12 grams fiber.


Until fresh native produce from the Andes can be sold in the United States, home cooks must make do with dried, canned or processed products. The dried items come closest to what is eaten in Peru. Andean freeze-dried potatoes, chuno and papa seca , are sold in bags, just as you’d find them in Peruvian markets. Try the dried mirasol chile or the super-fiery rocoto , available here pickled.

Oca and ulluco (labeled olluco ) are sold canned in brine. Use them and you’ll get the idea of what the vegetables are like, but don’t expect them to come close to what you can get fresh in the Andes. Huacatay , black mint, is an herb used throughout Peru, especially to flavor meats; a preserved version is available here in jars.

The places to buy these products include the following stores:

* Catalina’s Market, 1070 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 464-3595.

* El Condor, 15400 S. Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 675-9931.

* La Colina Market, Hill Plaza, 290 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena, (818) 568-1192.