Chuño: The Space-Age Food Invented by the Incas!

“What did the Incas and NASA have in common? They both faced the problem of long journeys through harsh, forbidding territory. And remarkably, centuries before NASA’s quest for ways to feed astronauts in space, the Incas had already found the answer.” S. Romero, The New York Times

Potatoes- Photo-inquisitiveeater

Inca Dried Potatoes- Photo-inquisitiveeater

Inca traditional foods of chunos (freeze dried potatoes) corn and quinoa. Photo- tastingtogether

Inca traditional foods of chunos (freeze dried potatoes) corn and quinoa. Photo- tastingtogether

Excerpt: A Space-Age Food Product Cultivated by the Incas By Simon Romero New York Times

“Their empire ran up and down the Andes, with a network of roads and terraced farms… They needed nourishing foods that traveled well and could be stored in bulk for a long time.

Inca Farming Terrace. Photo- Colin Glynn

Inca Farming Terrace. Photo- Colin Glynn

Terraqces at Machu Pichu. Photo-interamericaninstitute.org

Terraqces at Machu Pichu. Photo-interamericaninstitute.org

Chuño (pronounced CHOON-yoh) is essentially freeze-dried potatoes, developed by a culture that had none of today’s food-processing technology.

Villagers in the altiplano, the high tablelands of Bolivia and Peru, still make it the way the Incas did, using the warm days and frosty nights of June to repeatedly freeze and thaw the potatoes, and stomping them with their bare feet to remove the skins and liquids. Chuño can be stored and eaten for a decade after it has shrunken and dried.

Ramona Bustos walking barefoot on potatoes to create chuño, a freeze-dried Andean staple, near La Paz, Bolivia, in 2013. Credit Juan Karita

Ramona Bustos walking barefoot on potatoes to create chuño, a freeze-dried Andean staple, near La Paz, Bolivia. Credit Juan Karita

Closeup of Indigenous woman stepping on potatoes, preparing them for freeze dry-Image Source- Huff Post

Closeup of Indigenous woman stepping on potatoes, preparing them for freeze dry-Image Source- Huff Post

Chuño, largely unknown outside the Andes, takes a little getting used to. Newcomers who try it often remark that it tastes nothing like a potato, likening its, um, unusual flavor to Styrofoam or chalk. What about the smell? It’s better not to ask, though chuño’s aroma has been compared to dirty socks.

Inca children grow up eating Chuño. Photo- superteachertools

Inca children grow up eating Chuño. Photo- superteachertools

Truffles. cbsnews

Truffles. cbsnews

It does win some style points for its earthy appearance, akin to truffles. The descendants of the Incas still prize chuño, which is often served spiced with ají, an Andean chile.”

During the holidays in 2015, the crew aboard the Space Station enjoyed- Smoked Turkey, Candied Yams, Rehydratable Corn, Potatoes Au Gratin. 

During the holidays in 2015, the crew aboard the Space Station enjoyed- Smoked Turkey, Candied Yams, Rehydratable Corn, Potatoes Au Gratin.

“Chuño provides the food needed to survive.” ~C. A Sammells~anthropologist

Category: Culture