In the highlands of Ecuador grains form a great part of the diet of the Indian and local people. There are high protein native grains such as quinoa, amaranto, and chia. These grains are very well known worldwide and are being recognized as a superfood.
Grains are used in a variety of dishes on a daily basis. The grain that has the higher consumption is corn, and this is not only for the different ways it is used but also because of the varieties that exist.
The variety of corn produced in The Andes has its earliest description made by Father Juan de Velasco in the 16th century (1727–1792).
- Amarillo(Yellow) – large and soft,
- Blanco(White) – large, long, very soft, used for bread flour,
- Canguil– small, hard, pointed, used for popcorn,
- Carapali– medium size, white with red apex,
- Chulpior Chullpi – white, medium, very soft and sweet, sweet corn,
- Morocho– small, medium, yellow, hard, used to brew chicha,
- Negro grueso– black, large, and hard,
- Negro mediano– black and soft,
- Tumbaque– large, flat, dark green, and soft.
Each variety has a different use and a very distinctive flavor. They are used in very different ways from drinks (chicha), fritters (empanadas), or as a stew (menestra).
Mote, one of the varieties, is a white large grain cooked and used in a lot of Ecuador’s Typical dishes such as Chugchucara, Hornado, Fritada, Mote Pillo, Mote Sucio. In the city of Cuenca, the capital of Azuay province and the forth larger city of the country, Mote is eaten in almost every meal of the day.
Potatoes are also an important product used frequently at the Ecuadorian table. From a thick soup called Locro to llapingachos which are a kind of potato tortilla filled with cheese.
Cuy (guinea pig) is probably the highlands most unique food. This is a traditional Andean dish that dates back to before the day of the Inca´s. Cuy is generally roasted over an open fire. There isn’t much meat on the little animal. The taste is rather unique, some compare it as chicken or pork, and it tends to be a bit greasy. Served with cooked potatoes with a peanut sauce and salads of lettuce and avocado.
Agricultural production is very important for the different communities, and the crops they grow are a very important part of their lives and their economy. Depending on the areas or region the products and crops are specific. For example, at the north in the province of Carchi, potatoes, cheese and milk are the primary products. The Dairy Industry has its strength there because of the weather and the type of pasture, so the quality of the milk produced is very good and used in the production of Dairy products.
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