When the Spanish conquistadors overran South America citing God and country, their Bibles may very well have been turned to “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Because, boy, did those lords taketh. Indian culture was doomed, and with it, millennia-old foods. The Incas of Peru, renowned cultivators, saw their crops abandoned and replaced with European species.
But the Bible also cites resurrection, and, thankfully, many of those native products are again flourishing along the Peruvian coast and in the Andean highlands. Chief among them are grains, yielding ancient varieties of flours rich in flavor, hue, and nutrition. Many of them are organic, and most are gluten-free. Your breads, pancakes, and muffins might be revived right along with them, not to mention your gravies, soups, and breadings. “Fortunately, the ancient influences still persist,” notes the mission statement of Culinary Collective, an importer devoted to small producers and environmental stewardship. “The unique and highly nutritious grains are now available to the outside world.”
The flour options are as varied as they are intriguing. Imagine the pumpkin in your bread or the chocolate in your muffins reunited in a sweet, smoky kiss with mesquite flour, their native brethren. Or the lavender velvet of polenta sourced from purple corn. Or the subtle perfume of sweet-potato flour in your cinnamon-spiced coffee cake.
Zócalo Gourmet offers these and seven other heritage flours, including the quinoa-like kañiwa, maca, and yacon. Or, for a more sensory shopping experience, ride over to White Plains and explore a continent’s worth of foodstuffs on the swollen shelves of two authentic South American markets. You’ll find Peruvian sweet-potato flour at La Nueva Colmena (94 W Post Rd 914-684-1772), and purple corn flour at Libia’s Grocery (253 Martin Luther King Blvd 914-288-9518), along with spices and flavorings to enhance them. Then go home, light the oven, and experiment. The Incas would be proud.