Sacha Inchi Super Food, The Inca-Nut
When Harry Kelley and Julio Parilla, two gentlemen farmers from Iquitos, Peru invited me to visit their estate, Los Cedros, to tour their Sacha Inchi operation, I jumped at the chance. You do not have to be an old farmer like me to appreciate their farm. Every thing is neat and tidy and well taken care of. It was fascinating to learn about Sacha Inchi farming from the experts.
I have enjoyed Sacha Inchi cold pressed oil, and roasted seeds for a couple of years, but unless you have spent some time in the Amazon rainforest or along the east slope of the lower Andes you might not have heard of Sacha Inchi, even though it has been cultivated for 3,000 years. It helped fuel the Inca conquest of the Andes, and is nicknamed the Inca-nut.
Sacha Inchi may well be the next big thing in health food stores around the world because the cold pressed sacha inchi oil contains 45% omega 3 fatty acid, 36% omega 6, 9% omega 9, 27% protein, and is rich in iodine, vitamin A, and vitamin E. It has a delicious mild nutty flavor. If you have been taking fish oil supplements for your omega 3, you may want to switch to Sacha Inchi for the taste.
I learned a lot about growing Sacha Inchi. Julio planted their two hectares from seeds he sprouted in a special compost mixture. His compost recipe is 5 sacks rotten sawdust, 1 bag aged chicken guano, 1 bag finished black compost, and a couple of handfuls of lime. He planted around 1200 sprouts in a 3 meter grid lined up with tall posts and wire for a trellis. It is best to plant the rows north and south to get the maximum sun on the vines.
Julio says, “You can not just plant Sacha Inchi and leave. It needs plenty of tender love and care. It has to be fertilized, trimmed and pruned, kept on the trellis, and weeded. Never interplant Cocona because the Cocona plants carries a fungus that is harmful to the Sacha Inchi vines.”
They made their first small harvest of 40 kilos after 8 months. Two weeks later they harvested 80 kilos, then two more weeks and it was 110 kilos. In one year and 6 months they have harvested 600 kilos, and expect the total per hectare to be much more because they are learning better ways to prune the vines to increase the yield.
After picking the pods, they sun dry them for three days to make them easier to shuck the seeds out. They hire local women to do the shucking for S/1 sole per kilo. The value of a kilo of seeds is between 3 and 4 soles.
Harry says, “The best money is in cold pressing the oil, which involves a peeler to take the skin off, an oil extractor and a bottler. The pulp is a by-product used for soap, flour, bread, feed for fish and cattle, and is also used in cosmetics and medicinal cream.”
Harry and Julio are considering adding another 2 hectares to their Sacha Inchi farm, depending on government loans and the future price of Sacha Inchi.
I will do my part to raise the price. I love the roasted seeds and the oil is a tasty nutritious substitute for olive oil for bread and salads. The oil is not suitable for cooking as heat destroys the omega 3.
Try this; mix 4 Tbls. Sacha Inchi oil with one Tbls. fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice with salt and pepper over a mixed garden salad with diced avocado.
Try this; 1/3 cup Sacha Inchi oil mixed with finely chopped fresh basil and or thyme leaves. Use as a butter substitute on crusty French or Italian bread, or as a condiment for a tomato, onion, avocado, lettuce vegetarian sandwich on multi whole grain bread. Delicious!
Sacha Inchi Super Food, the Inca-Nut
Bill Grimes, Dawn on the Amazon