Corn was in connection with many great cultures in the New World such as the Inca, Maya and Aztec civilizations. Nowadays several North American Indian tribes – Zuni, Hopi, Navajo – prefer purple corn. The Southwestern American Indian tribes used purple corn as basic material for foods. The New Mexican cuisine is significantly based on these ancient demands so the cultivation and products of purple corn are from these areas. The nutritional values of the purple corn exceed those of the traditional, widely cultivated yellow ones.
Zea mays L. ‘Kculli’ is known to be native to Peru. The traditional cultivation of Zea mays L. ‘Kculli’ is restricted to the old area of influence of the Inca Empire, although modernly this cultivar or variety is also cultivated in several other countries.
‘Kculli’ (Quechuan) is 1.8 m to 2.4 m tall. The main stalk terminates in a staminate (male) inflorescence, or tassel. The root is fibrous and fascicled, often with prop roots from the lower nodes. Leaves are alternate, linear to linear-lanceolate, long and expanded or narrow. ‘Kculli’ has dark-green leaves, with purple main nerves. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant). The male flowers are disposed at the top of the stem, at the highest part of the plant, in erect or spreading racemes forming a panicle 30 cm or more long. This male inflorescence or tassel is a panicle constituted by many small flowers called spikelets, disposed in pairs, one sessile, the other pedicelled, those of each pair alike, 8 mm to 12 mm long. Zea mays is easily killed by frost. This crop is normally cultivated in lands over 10,000 ft above sea level.
The fruits are caryopsides variable as to size, shape, color and sugar-starch content: roundish or reniform; they are commonly arranged in 8 rows on a large cylindrical receptacle or rachis, popularly called the cob. The length of the mature ear oscillates between 7.5 cm and 50 cm, with 8 to 36 or more grain rows. Zea mays L. ‘Kculli’ requires maturity within 91 to 100 days. There are different variations within purple corn, and all of them originated from the ancestral Kculli. The Kculli line is very old, and ancient objects in the shape of these particular ears of corn have been found in archeological sites at least 2 500 years old in places in the central Peruvian coast, as well as among the ceramics of the Mochica culture. This corn variety has long been used by the people of the Peruvian Andes to color foods and beverages, something that the industrialized world is just exploiting.
Modern Peruvians, as ancient Peruvians also make a drink from the whole corn and cob which they call Chicha morada. With this drink they also like to prepare a very popular dessert called Mazamorra morada. This dessert is prepared especially in October, which celebrates the Lord of Miracles. According to historian Juan Jose Vega, “mazamorra” is a word that comes from the words “masa mora” which in English means “berry mass/mush”, but could just as easily mean “Moorish mush”. This was a type of food of Arab origins, brought to Spain during its years of domination by the Moors. Many of the conquistadors who came to Peru after the conquest came bringing their Moorish concubines, who happened to also be very good in the kitchen.
In the Arab world, especially centered around Maghred, a similar dish called “matmora” is prepared with molasses, milk, spices and flour. It is possible that in Peru the wheat flour was swapped for corn flour. The term “mazamorra” also described a mushy mix of bread and biscuit crumbs fed to old sailors and slaves. Other sources indicate an origin in a pre-Columbian dish – a porridge made in the highlands from quinoa. This idea may have been copied, adding sugar and replacing quinua for flour. Whatever its origin, this messy purple mush is delicious and can’t be missed.
1 kg (2.2 lb) of purple maize
4 litres (16 cups) of water
1 stick cinnamon
2 cups of pineapple in pieces
2 chopped quinces
2 chopped apples
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of morello cherries
1 cup of dried plums
7 tablespoons of sweet potato flour
Juice of 3 limes
Pineapple flavored water
Remove the kernels from the purple maize, and cook them with the corn in water, together with the stick cinnamon, the cloves, the peel of the pineapple, the quinces and the apples. The kernels must get opened; it will take more or less 30 minutes.
Strain. Add the sugar, the pineapple, the morello cherries and the dried plums, and put it on a low flame for another 30 minutes. Add the sweet potato flour dissolved in cold pineapple flavoured water and stir for 15 minutes. At the end, pour the lime juice and cook another 5 minutes, stiring constantly. Serve hot and sprinkle powdered cinnamon