Peru is the major producer of Sacha Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis Linneo) also known as the “Inca Peanut,” a super food for its high content of Omega 3,6 and 9 and antioxidant properties. With a lifespan of over 10 years, the twining vine, native to the hot and sunny Amazon region, flowers within five months and fruits within eight months of planting.
Sacha Inchi is a crop that could provide a sustainable source of income for the people in the Amazon, minimizing negative impact to this fragile ecosystem. The fruit, found in a star-shaped green pod with three layers of shell, has three to seven seeds per pod, each the size of a hazelnut and a 49-54 percent content of pure oil, rich in Omega 3s.
Given the potential for Sach Inchi, now in high export demand, working to develop the protocol for good practices in agriculture and processing has become priority for the Peruvian public and private sectors. Peru provides 90 percent of the Sacha Inchi for export, but product shortage and price fluctuation are issues in competing against other sources in the growing Omega 3 market.
The goal of the Peruvian Sacha Inchi sector is to be acknowledged for its premium product, like the argan oil sector has accomplished in Morocco, where an organized production system extracts the rich oil, valued for its nutritive, medicinal and cosmetic properties. Still considered a novel food in Europe, Sacha Inchi seeds are not admitted as a food, while in Canada and the U.S., they are viewed as a gourmet food ingredient or snack, toasted or covered with chocolate.
“We have received amazing response from the sacha inchi seeds covered with chocolate sweetened with yacon from our supplier UHTCO Corp” says Jerry Zeifman of Advantage Health Matters, a Canadian importer and distributor of high quality super foods and natural supplements. UHTCO has earned a reputation for quality Peruvian ingredients and formulations. When asked about his delicious sacha inchi seeds, UHTCO Corp. CEO Jorge Urena replied: “Planting, harvesting and processing any food under organic certification may guarantee no chemicals and unwanted pesticides and fertilizers, but like with every great chef, there is always more than just following a recipe to get your end result. You need to learn when and how to proceed to reach that perfect balance between taste, nutrition and sustainability.” And it is to reach this consistency in quality, nutrition content and supply that the Sacha Inchi sector is seeking as part of the PeruBiodiverso project within the context of the National Biotrade Promotion Program.