Top 5: continued…
2. Peaches and Herbs
Lima is the fruit basket of Peru with diversity so rich from the different regions. I just found out that the season is the reason why these are abundant all year: when products run out in one region, yet another harvests and sells them next!
I personally got to eat at least a dozen new fruits that I have never seen or tasted before, such as Blanquillo, a white variety of peaches, the granadilla –sweetest passion fruit, Tuna- the fruit, not the fish- a prickly pear fruit of cactus; Aguaymanto called Inca berries or cape goose berry; Pepino dulce or pear melon, yellow gold round cucumber-ish fruit like cantaloupe; Pacay (ice cream bean) which tastes like vanilla flavored cotton; Higo -figs, whose flavor I only ate from cookies before. Lucuma, commonly known as egg fruit which refers to its consistency (that of a hard boiled egg) is more popularly prepared and tastes divine as ice cream or pastry flavor.
There is a wide diversity of ancient curative root crops and herbal emollients now getting famous all over the world: Maca, the Andean version of ginseng; Uña de Gato (cat’s claw) recognized to fight radicals and stimulates immune system; Sacha Inchi, Inca peanut, source of Aceite de Sacha Inchi, the Peruvian Amazon version of olive oil. Other common herbs are Albahaca, basil, Culantro, or coriander used in Peru’s most popular dish, Arroz con pollo,
Huacatay, Andean black mint, Cedron, lemon verbena, Hierba buena, another mint variety and the most famous of all –Coca, commonly used as an energizing tea, Mate de Coca or otherwise concocted as a global illicit business, its final product distributed mostly from Colombia and Mexico. Yet this ancient herb is in fact widely used in cooking and as medicine as well as spa treatments.
3. Crops galore
Peruvians relish the world’s most healthy and nutritious tubers, grains and crops such as Quinoa, now touted as the world´s healthiest grains, kiwicha, yacon, chuño and my favorite, olluco a tuber vegetable which is a cross between potato and chayote. Then there’s the great papa, potato, which the National Institute of Potato claim that Peru has 2,800 varieties at the very least. I have eaten and tried about a dozen varieties so far, 2,788 to go!
Peru has 55 corn varieties – I saw the biggest one in Cusco, it’s ear as big as mine. Ever heard of purple corn? Here they prepare it as a healthy beverage, it lowers cholesterol level, a home made juice called chicha morada.
4. Culture vulture. Lima as Spain’s viceroyalty capital in Latin America is home to at least 20 museums, hundreds of ancestral homes (casonas), churches and buildings built from different periods and architectural styles – colonial, republican, renaissance, baroque, neo-gothic, French-, Italian- and Mestizo, the latter a quaint mix of the Inca and colonial. Practically half of the city still has some of the oldest, and I mean centuries-old, not just decades-old, decadent and history-rich manors. Sadly, these are now replaced by condominiums and high rises by the minute. However, some casonas are still well preserved and converted to museums, some still continually inhabited by their descendants. You may visit these and you will witness first hand, living history.
5. Theaters. Part of Lima’s culture and tradition is the variety and perpetuation of theater culture. When I first arrived in Lima, I was invited to go to the “theater”, and I ignorantly asked, which movie? To which my Lima friends laughed, and said, theater, NOT cinema! You see, from where I came from, it’s movie theaters – but here, folks still like to watch plays instead of movies! Don’t get me wrong – they also have their version of Hollywood they call Choliwood (from “cholo/a” meaning mestizo-indigenous mixed race), which is the majority of the population. However, the viceroyalty influence amongst the populace still persist with the culturally inclined buffs, they have theater for every interest or preference and even several for kids.