Sacha Inchi is one of those magical plants straight out of a fairy tale. A briarless briar that will up and over everything in a matter of months, burying shrubs, trees, castles beneath its vibrant green flow of leaves and vines. The flowers are like little lances, tiny white yellow balls on a small sturdy stalk – you can see the remnants in the first photo. One would never think that a little slender stick would become such a Cinderella’s carriage of a fruit. The fruit is star shaped and can have between 4 and 7 points (though I’m sure there are 3 pointers and 8 pointers out there), though we see mostly 5 and 6 pointed fruits. Star shaped fruits are always magical in their symmetry and simplicity, and the sacha inch has to be one of the most beautiful.
Gradually the green fruit begins to ripen and turn brown, losing its swollen firmness and taking on a more streamlined and floral aspect. The outer layer splits underneath to reveal the first of 2 seed casings. We wait until the outermost layer has almost rotted away, or dried up into a downy fluff. Termites really like this material and are quite good at cleaning the seeds. The seeds can then fall or can be hand picked. And its then that the real work begins.
We sun dry the fruits until the outer husk can be almost brushed off and then – with a lot of patience, and ideally some good conversation or music – we begin shelling. There are two shells, an outer more woody pale shell covering a thinner and darker inner shell. Sometimes we are able to remove both shells together, but mostly not. We store the seeds with their inner shell, removing it when we want to roast the seeds. They are very pretty, about the size of nickels, smooth and cool to the touch.
We’re experimenting with a slow low roast in the dehydrator to preserve the full Omega 3, but the seeds are also delicious roasted with a little garlic and salt in a heavy bottomed pan. The reason why we go to all this trouble is the incredible nutritional value of sacha inchi.
With the highest known percentage of Omega 3, about 50%, and a great balance of Omega 6 and 9, sacha inchi or Nut Vine, Inca Peanut, Peru Nut as they’re also known, is a wonderful addition to our diet. They are rich in protein – about 33%, a complete protein source including all the amino acids; high in vitamins A and E; and a good source of minerals including calcium and iron. Very highly digestible and rich in fibre. They are also really tasty. We eatthem as a snack with ground kefir lime leaves, garlic and salt, or add them to salads. They are also a great addition to a trail mix.
We’ve just planted out a new trellis, and we should be starting harvest on the new plants in about 6 months. Meanwhile we just finished a major harvest and are currently working on drying and shelling the seeds.