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What Is Ulluco?

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  • Written By: Steven Symes
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2014
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Ulluco is a type of tuber, or thick edible root, that comes from South America. Some have compared the ulluco to potatoes, although they do not ever need to be peeled and they have a nutty taste. In South America, the roots are prepared in several ways in a variety of dishes, similar to how potatoes are used in North America and Europe.

The original home of the ulluco is the Andes Mountains region of South America, which is situated in both Peru and Bolivia. Popularity of the root spread to the surrounding areas of the continent, and has become a staple in many traditional South American dishes. The root is commonly used to thicken stews, is pickled in spicy sauces or is mixed with meats. Because of the popularity of the root, other areas of the world are beginning to explore cultivating ulluco, including New Zealand and Great Britain.

The appearance of ulluco varies between different strains. Some are rounded, like potatoes, while others are long and skinny. The roots come in a variety of colors, including yellow, brown, white, red and green. In fact, some strains come with two colors on the outside, sometimes in a candy stripe pattern. Inside, the roots appear either yellow or white. The plant’s leaves are green and have a texture very similar to spinach.

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Preparing an ulluco to eat takes little effort, compared to other tubers. The skin is thin and soft enough that a cook does not need to peel the roots before cooking them. Some varieties of the root have more mucilage than do others, which makes the roots chewy. A cook can either soak the roots in water or boil them before using them in a dish, removing the extra mucilage and making the roots more enjoyable for eating.

Both the root and leaves of the ulluco offer high nutritional value. Because of their nutritional benefits, the roots have increased in popularity amongst health-conscious consumers who do not live in South America. The roots and leaves both are rich in calcium, protein and carotene, with the roots also containing high levels of fiber and starch.

Originally, the ulluco was one of the so-called lost crops of the Incan civilization. Various pieces of Inca archeological artifacts point toward the root’s use and importance, with the roots appearing on artwork of various forms. Later, when the Spaniards occupied South America, the root and many other indigenous crops were almost wiped out or forgotten in favor of crops with European origins.

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