What did the Incas and NASA have in common? Both faced the challenge of feeding people on long journeys through hostile terrain. Surprisingly hundreds of years before NASA figured out how to feed its astronauts on long flights, the Incas found the answer.
The Incan Empire ran up and down the Andes Mountains, with the same distance as from Stockholm, Sweden, to Cairo, Egypt. The Incan army needed nourishing food that traveled well and could be stored in bulk for a long time. That food what? Chuño! Chuño is freeze-dried potatoes developed by a culture that did not have today’s food-processing technology.
Today’s villagers in the highlands of Bolivia and Peru still make it the way the Incas made it. The villagers use the warm days and cold nights of June to repeatedly freeze and thaw the potatoes, and stomp on the potatoes with their feet, removing the skin and liquids from the potatoes.
Chuño can be stored and eaten for up to ten years after it’s been shrunken and dried. Today villagers in the Andes Mountains rely on chuño to survive during times of drought and crop failures.