Airampo Cactus

Ark of taste
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Airampo (Opuntia soehrensii) is a cactus that has succulent, spiny, flattened, semi-circular stems and yellow or red flowers. It grows in the wild in dry valleys, especially in Cusco and Apurimac and some costal valleys, but it can also be found domesticated. It has pink edible fruits similar to prickly pears. The seed is used to dye drinks, sweets, and fibers in a beautiful magenta color. It is also used to create infused drinks or mixed with beaten egg whites that are used as a garnish in drinks in Cusco, in southeastern Peru. In the past, airampo was often used to give color to ice creams and other desserts, though this tradition has decreased. It is believed to have many medicinal properties, and is considered a “fresh” fruit in the Andean tradition of designating foods as either “warm” or “fresh.”   Airampo is associated with the Feast of the Cruz Velacuy, which involves a candlelit tour of the streets of Cusco. During the walk, a refreshment of pisco macerated with airampo is served. This festival takes place in May, and is associated with the beginning of the harvest time. The same refereshment is used in other occasions, such as when it is served with t’anta wawa (baby shaped bread) during All Saints’ Day celebrations.   Airampo has been part of the traditional cuisine of the local families in three forms: grains, tinctures and refreshments. All of the women of Cusco had this ingredient at home because it gave a beautiful color to their preparations and on the other, relieved discomfort of fevers, inflammation or ulcers. Now most do not use it as a medical resource, but go to pharmacies. Currently there are very few who still use it as a dye, and even less in baking. Airampo can still be found for sale in Cusco at various markets or spice shops, but its price is relatively high, possibly due to the labor-intensive process of harvesting and drying that is involved.

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Other info


Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Nominated by:Alessandra Vesta Pinasco García-Miró, Carlos Gonzalez