Benefits Of: ULLUCO

Basellaceae (Madeira-vine family)

The ulluco is native to the Andes Mountain Range, where it grows wild in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

Description. Perennial creeping herb 30-50 cm (12-20 in) tall. Fleshy leaves alternate, petiolate, heart-shaped, varying in color from dark green to almost reddish. Small flowers in axillary panicles produce dry, indehiscent nutlets of an obovate shape. The plant is grown for its subterranean, starchy tubers, which grow between 4 and 15 cm (1.6-6 in) in diameter, usually with irregular shape and white to yellowish flesh. The skin shows a great variation in color, including orange, yellowish, purplish, greenish, or brown.

Benefits Of: ULLUCO Photo Gallery

Origin and Distribution. The ulluco is native to the Andes Mountain Range, where it grows wild in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. It is cultivated mainly at elevations between 2,500 and 4,000 m (8,200- 13,000 ft) in mountainous regions between Argentina and Colombia, where it is often the predominant root crop. This tuber has been cultivated in the Andean region for at least 5,000 years. It is the second-most important tuber grown in the Andes after the potato. Food uses: The tubers, which have a pleasant, potato-like, nutty flavor with crisp texture, are used very much like potatoes. Considered a delicacy, they are usually boiled in stews and soups. They are also pickled and added to hot sauces. The high water content makes the tuber unsuitable for frying. The ulluco tubers are often treated by exposing them to cold Andean nights and dry, sunny days to produce dehydrated chuno de olluco or llingli. Treated tubers have a sweeter, more intense flavor. They can be kept for many years without spoiling. They are usually used in soups and stews or made into flour. The leaves are rich in proteins and eaten like spinach, raw in salads, or cooked in soups.

Comments. Small tubers are used for propagation. The time from planting to harvest is normally 6-8 months, with harvests ranging from 5 to 9 tons (11,000-20,000 lbs) per hectare. Cultivation of ulluco requires very little maintenance and it has few pest problems. Tubers are high in starch, protein, calcium, and vitamin C.

The ulluco is closely related to Malabar spinach (Basella rubra), widely cultivated in the tropics for its succulent leaves, which are commonly used as a vegetable.

Description. Herbaceous, perennial, monocotyle-donous plants 2-2.5 m (6.6-8 ft) tall. Leaves heartshaped, 50-100 cm (20-40 in) long, with the purplish petiole attached to the undersurface at the indentation of the lamina lobes. Leaf blades have a collecting vein along the margin of the leaf. Unisexual or bisexual flowers on a spike enclosed by a large cream-colored spathe. Fruits are berries containing 2-5 small hard seeds. The plant produces a starchy, spherical, or cylindrical corm that grows shallowly under the soil surface. Corms can grow to 35 cm (14 in) long and weigh several kilograms. The tender flesh is white, cream, yellow, or pink.

Origin and Distribution. Originally from tropical regions of Central and South America, where the plant grows wild in the understory of humid lowland rainforests. Tannia has been cultivated as a food crop in tropical America for millennia and is now grown in most tropical countries with high annual rainfall.

Food uses. Corms are boiled, steamed, fried, or roasted. Along the Caribbean coast of Central America, a stew called rondon is made from seafood, diced tannia and cassava, coconut milk, and spices. In Surinam, the shredded corms are prepared with chicken, fruit juice, salted meat, and spices in a popular dish called pom. In parts of Africa, a pastelike mash called fufu is made from cooked corms. This is sometimes slightly fermented before consumption. A very similar preparation is called poi in Hawaii. In Puerto Rico, “pastels” are made from tannia, meat, and plantains wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Young, tender leaves are cooked like spinach.

Comments. Corms contain 20-25% nonallergenic and easily digested carbohydrate but are low in protein and vitamins. Tannia has acquired several local names, including malanga, belembe, yautia, nampi, and cocoyam. To add to the confusion, these names are often also applied to other starchy vegetables like yam (Dioscorea sp., p. 262) and taro (Colocasia esculenta, p. 261).

4 Spices and Herbs

Spices are often associated with colorful markets in the tropics, especially in India and Southeast Asia, where many of them originated. For centuries, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, and other spices were transported vast distances, first by land and then by sea, to Europe, where merchants eager to make their fortune traded for these highly prized substances.

Now readily available, spices—and herbs—are as important to human food culture today as they ever were. Indeed, in certain countries like India or Thailand, it is impossible to imagine their cuisine without certain characteristic spices like chili peppers, tumeric, and ginger.

This chapter describes many of the most important tropical spices. Some, like black pepper and nutmeg, are common almost everywhere, while others are used only in certain corners of the world.

Description. Perennial, erect, herbaceous plant, 2-2.5 m (6.6-8 ft) tall. Alternate, lanceolate leaves, 40-50 cm (16-20 in) long by 8-12 cm (3-5 in) wide. Showy flowers in terminal spikes with white petals and deep red veining. Ovoid fruits, 2-3 cm (0.8- 1.2 in) long, are capsules with numerous small seeds. Mature plants produce pale yellow and pink branched rhizomes with cylindrical subunits similar to ginger (Zingiber officinale, p. 314), but with characteristic rings. Rhizomes have a pungent taste with an aroma similar to a blend of black pepper and ginger.

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia. Widely cultivated from India and Sri Lanka throughout Southeast Asia to southern China.

Food uses. Freshly grated or sliced rhizomes are used as an important culinary spice in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand. The spice is also a common ingredient in stir-fries and curries. Galangal is used in the preparation of Thai curry paste and curry powder. Extracts of the rhizome are used to flavor vinegar and liqueurs. The seeds are sometimes used instead of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum, p. 289).

Comments. The reddish-brown rhizomes of the lesser galangal (A. officinarum), native to China, have a spicy, aromatic taste.

Description. Broad evergreen tree, 4-10 m (13-33 ft) tall. Alternate glossy leaves ovate to cordate, 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long by 5-15 cm (2-6 in) wide, with long petioles. White or pink flowers with 5 petals and numerous stamens. Ovoid to heart-shaped, dark red to brown fruit capsules are densely covered in soft bristles. Seeds are surrounded by soft, bright red arils.

Origin and Distribution. Probably native to tropical South America, especially the Amazon basin. Today the tree is cultivated throughout the tropics as a dooryard tree and in small plantations.

Food uses. The seeds have a mildly spicy, nutty flavor and are used as a spice and food colorant. The seed paste gives an orange or yellow color to rice, sauces, and chicken and fish dishes as well as typical Latin American foods like empanadas and tamales. The fat-soluble food coloring is widely used to add an orange-yellow color to butter, margarine, ice cream, and cheese. Annatto is a key ingredient in tascalate, a drink made from toasted corn and cacao typical of the Chiapas region of Mexico.

Comments. The red annatto coloring was used by indigenous tribes of South America as body paint and lipstick. The coloring pigments in annatto are fat-soluble bixin and water-soluble norbixin.

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