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Loroco is a small, unopened flower bud harvested from a vining plant with broad and flat, green leaves. The flowers grow in clusters of 10 to 32 buds, widely ranging in size depending on growing conditions, and are harvested when the flowers are still tightly enclosed in a green casing. The buds have a smooth consistency with an elongated and angular, diamond-like shape. Underneath the protective casing, there are tightly packed, small, and soft white petals giving the buds a crisp, succulent texture. Loroco has a distinct, vegetal and earthy flavor, reminiscent of chard, artichoke, and asparagus mixed with a faint, floral sweetness. The buds also contain nutty, acidic, and woody undertones adding a tangy, pungent aftertaste.
Loroco blossoms are primarily available in the late spring through early fall in Central America. In some tropical regions with steady irrigation, the flowers may bloom year-round.
Loroco, botanically classified as Fernaldia pandurata, are edible, unopened flower buds that grow on a woody vine belonging to the Apocynaceae family. The tropical plant is native to Central America and is also known locally as Quilite among indigenous communities, translating to mean “edible herb.” Loroco has been used for centuries as an edible flower and is harvested when the buds are small and still tightly closed. The flowering vines are traditionally grown in home gardens for everyday culinary use, but they are also commercially cultivated on a small scale for export to the United States. Loroco is used as a natural flavoring in an array of culinary applications and is widely favored for its pungent, sweet and tangy flavor.
Loroco is a good source of fiber to stimulate the digestive tract and provides calcium to help strengthen bones and teeth. The flower buds also contain niacin, a vitamin that assists in the body processing food into energy and is a source of other nutrients, including vitamins A and C and iron.
Loroco is best suited for lightly cooked applications, including steaming, stir-frying, and boiling. The buds can be chopped and mixed into salads, stirred into rice-based dishes, stuffed into tamales, or used as a topping over pizza. Loroco can also be cooked into omelets, incorporated into sauces, or sprinkled into soups and stews. In Guatemala, Loroco is popularly cooked into a cream-based sauce and poured over chicken, fish, or vegetables. The flower buds can also be dried, pickled, or frozen for extended use. Loroco pairs well with zucchini, pasta, poultry, fish, other seafood, and cheeses such as Monterey Jack, mozzarella, and queso fresco. In Central America, the unopened clusters of buds are cut from the vine and stored in baskets with good ventilation for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. For the best quality and flavor, it is recommended to consume the buds immediately after harvest.
Loroco is most famously used in pupusas, which is the national dish of El Salvador. Pupusas are one of the most affordable meals consumed throughout the country, consisting of a thick tortilla handmade from a corn and rice dough mixture, stuffed with cheese, beans, meats, and herbs. There are many different variations of pupusas sold through street vendors, local markets, and in pupuserias, and the dish is traditionally eaten as a snack or at breakfast and dinner. When served as a full meal, pupusas are accompanied with a fermented cabbage slaw known as curtido, hot sauces, and salsa on the side for added flavor. One variation of pupusas includes Loroco being mixed into a white cheese known as quesillo. Pupusas stuffed with Loroco are officially known as pupusas de queso y Loroco, and in El Salvador, the flower buds are primarily used fresh. Outside of El Salvador and Central America, Loroco cannot be found fresh, and some restaurants use the pickled versions of the flowers for a salty, tangy addition to pupusas.
Loroco is native to tropical regions of Central America and has been growing wild since ancient times. The flowering vine is especially popular in El Salvador and Guatemala, where it has become a common home garden variety, used to flavor everyday cooking. Loroco has also been introduced to other Central America regions, including Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras, and was mainly transported to these regions through migrating peoples. Today Loroco can be found fresh at local markets in Central America and is also grown for export to countries such as the United States. When sold for export, the flower buds are sold through online retailers in pickled, dried, or frozen form.
Recipes that include Loroco Blossoms. One is easiest, three is harder.