Due to the size of the Inca Empire it covered a large area of land encompassing many different regions of what is now known as South America, this helped to add to the variety of ingredients used in different areas of the Inca civilization. This was because different plants grew in certain parts of Inca territory that where unavailable in other Inca strongholds, this was also the case for some animals used in cooking at the time of the Inca Empire. The Inca diet was mainly vegetarian based and involved them eating vegetables such as potatoes as their staple diet. Although potatoes were the main source of food for the Incas other foad such as quinoa, beans, squash, sweet potatoes, avocados, tomatoes and manioc were also heavily involved within the Inca peoples diet.
One of the main reasons for potatoes and other forms of root vegetables playing a large part in the Inca diet was because the root crops had the ability to withstand low temperatures. This meant that as the Incas grew their own crops in mountain regions they needed the guarantee that the crops could survive the freezing temperatures and high altitude that came with living in the mountain areas. As potatoes and other forms of root vegetables can generally withstand temperatures that drop to around -15°C this made them an ideal form of food source for the Inca people.
Although eating potatoes was common with all of the Inca territories they were unable to grow certain crops due to the severe cold and altitude. This creates a variation between diets of the Inca people at lower altitude in the valleys of the Andes and the people who actually lived in the mountains. One of the main food sources for Inca people at lower altitudes was Maize. The importance of this grew tremendously under the Inca civilization as it was grown as a food source and as a status crop for ceremonies and rituals.
Even thought the majority of the Incas diet was vegetarian based, meat was also eaten by the Inca people. Among the favourite types of meat were llamas and alpacas. They were kept for their wool and used to carry the Incas possessions. Among the food products made from the Peruvian camelids was sharqui similar to strips of frozen dried meat. The meat used by some of the poor Inca people was the guinea pig which were often cooked by stuffing hot stones inside them. The entrails would often be used as an ingredient in soups along with potatoes, or made into a sauce.For More Information on Modern Peruvian Cuisine Please Click Here