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Olluco tubers are small root vegetables that can vary wildly in size and shape. They are generally round or elongated, curved or twisted and measure between 2 and 6 centimeters in diameter. They have smooth, yellow to orange skins covered in pink splotches. The yellow flesh is very firm and crisp with a watery texture and may have a somewhat slimy consistency. They have an earthy flavor reminiscent of beetroot and potato.
Olluco tubers are available in the fall and winter months.
Olluco (pronounced oo-YOO-ko) tubers have grown in the Andes Mountains region for thousands of years and are the most widely consumed tuber after the potato. They are often referred to as Olluquitos for their diminutive size, and Ulluco in English. They are called Papa Lisa in Bolivia and Melloco in Ecuador. They look like potatoes, but they are an entirely unrelated species botanically classified as Ullucus tuberosus. There are at least 70 different varieties of Ulluco tubers that come in a range of sizes and colors like yellow, lime green, purple, red, bright pink, and white with pink spots.
Olluco tubers are rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamin C, and thiamine, also known as vitamin B1. They are a source of iron and contain small amounts of other B-complex vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and fiber. Ollucos contain phytonutrients like carotenes that provide beneficial antioxidants. They get their earthy smell from a compound called geosmin, the levels of which vary from variety to variety.
Olluco tubers can be eaten raw when they are small and young. The skin is thin enough to eat and doesn’t require peeling, simply wash and dry the tubers. Thinly slice, julienne or dice raw Ollucos for salads and slaws. When mature, they are best boiled or added to stews and thick soups, or chupes, as they are called in Ecuador. In Peru, they are served par-boiled and thinly sliced atop goat cheesecakes or alongside octopus. They are paired with eggs and sautéed, and pair well with other tubers, garlic, onions and soft cheeses. Boil the tubers in acidulated water to retain their vibrant colors. Olluco tubers will keep for up to a year if stored in a cool, dry environment. Store Ollucos at room temperature for up to a week.
The region of South America where Ollucos originated is considered a Vavilov center of diversity. In 1924 Dr. Nikolai Vavilov proposed his theory on ‘centers of origin’ which was based on Darwin’s concept of plant variability. He hypothesized that the world’s major food crops all derived from five centers of origin and that the genetic diversity of those crops would likely be the greatest in those areas. By 1935 he had added three more centers of diversity. The Andean Mountain range is one of those centers and Ollucos are among the three most important Andean root and tuber crops after potatoes. Vavilov’s work resulted in the creation of genebank centers in each of the identified centers of origin. Ollucos are kept in the Andean region genebank located in Lima, Peru.
Olluco tubers are native to the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains in the northwestern part of South America. They primarily grow in an area from southern Venezuela to northern Argentina but can also be found in Chile and parts of Brazil. They are believed to have originated in the Andean high plains in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. They have been a part of the Andean people’s diet for over 10,000 years, evidenced by the remnants of Ollucos found in a cave in Peru. Native Ecuadorians have used the raw tuber topically to treat skin conditions and recommend eating it to ease stomach and digestive discomfort. The leaves of the Olluco plant are edible and are prepared and used like spinach. Outside of the Andes region, Ollucos can be found in New Zealand, where they have been cultivated for over 20 years and are called ‘earth gems.’ One farm in the United Kingdom is cultivating them and canned or jarred Ollucos may be spotted in Latin markets in the United States and Europe.
Recipes that include Olluco. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Life Ajar||Olluquitos Con Carne|
|Life Ajar||Traditional Olluco|
|Life Ajar||Chupe de Ollucos|
|Food For The Hungry||Olluco with Charqui|