Did you know that the Freeze-Dried technique was invented by Incan Imperium?
Incan Imperium invented many of the food preservation processes that are still in use today. Due to the vast and diverse geographical area in which they lived which today covers a big part of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and parts of Colombia and northern Argentina, they had an incredible range of food items available. Food preservation and distribution were occupying concerns of the Inca, and a food preservation system was developed. In fact, the Incas had one of the most advanced and varied food distribution and preservation systems in the world.
It was necessary at times to transport large amounts of food, but with most transportation happening on foot, it was just not practical to carry weighty food in large quantities, even with the help of llamas as pack animals. This is how freeze-drying came into play.
They discover that in altitudes of the Andes, freezing temperatures are pretty much guaranteed during the night. The Inca took advantage of this fact by laying out large areas of small potatoes on beds of straw or blankets and covering them with a cloth. When morning came, the villagers would walk on the cloths, using the weight of their bodies to squeeze the moisture out of the potatoes. The potatoes were then exposed to the sun during the day. These steps were traditionally repeated for several days, resulting in the darker freeze-dried potatoes that you can find, known as ‘Chuño.’
Another method to freeze-drying potatoes involves the icy streams close to many villages. These potatoes are soaked in tightly woven mesh bags, which protects the potatoes from the dirt, but allows the water to permeate and wash the potatoes. They were left to soak in the ice-cold water for a few days, then spread out to dry in the sun. This is the method used to make ‘Moraya,’ or what some people know as ‘White Chuño’.
Chuño and Moraya are still essential products for the Inca’s descendants. They keep for years without the need for refrigeration, and are quite versatile, being used in all types of soups, stews, and side dishes, and can be used as an emergency food source in case of drought or crop failure. Another advantage of freeze drying is that it removes the bitter flavours from certain types of potatoes, making them more tasty. Chuño and Moraya can be ground into flour, making a useful thickener and an ingredient in baked and fried starchy dishes. They are often used in traditional soups.