Sacred Valley of the Incas: this is the name given to the area where Giant White Corn is grown in Cusco. It is a section of about 70 km in length on both banks of the Vilcanota River -whose meaning in Quechua is «Sacred River»- in the department of Cusco (Peru), between the provinces of Calca and Urubamba, from the district of San Salvador and to the town center of Chilca in the district of Ollantaytambo.
The Giant White Corn, whose scientific name is Paraqay sara, only grows between 2,600 and 3,050 meters above sea level. It has ears of eight rows of large, round, white grains, which grow on plants that can reach 2 to 3 meters in height.
Since 2005, it has had a Denomination of Origin. This means that it is recognized worldwide as a species that only grows in Peru, specifically in six of the seven districts of the Cusco province of Calca (San Salvador, Písac, Taray, Coya, Lamay and Calca) and in five of the seven districts of the province of Urubamba (Urubamba, Huayllabamba, Ollantaytambo, Yucay and Maras).
This crop, today considered a superfood, has a long history, beginning in Ancient Peru. Already in the Pachacámac Sanctuary, which contains buildings dating from the Early Intermediate (3rd century) to the Late Horizon (15th century), it is possible to find representations of this grain. There, images have been found that represent the god Pachacámac with ears of corn tied to his waist that have been identified as Giant White Corn.
It was also a fundamental part of the diet of the Inca Empire. For the renowned scientist Paul Mangelsdorf, the cultivation and improvement of this species of corn «is among the most valuable legacies of the Inca culture for the human species and an incontrovertible example of the high degree of development that agriculture reached in this civilization.» Even today, in the Sacred Valley we can still see the great works of hydraulic engineering and terraces that the Incas created to cultivate this grain.