Aloja de Molle

Ark of taste
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Molle de Beber  

Alojas are a type of fermented drink, and aloja de molle is made from the fruit of the drinking molle (or molle de beber) tree (Lithraea molleoides). This tree is typical of northwestern and central Argentina, growing at altitudes above 400 meters above sea level, usually at 800 – 1000 meters. It reaches up to 10 meters tall, and its shiny, dark green leaves contain litreol, a substance that is irritating when it comes in contact with the skin. Trees bloom in spring and fruit in summer. The fruits are small, rounded and green in color.   The molle tree is associated with a local legend that says that a woman named Aruera was a beautiful native whose heart was broken many times. Aruera fell in love blindly and often, but was constantly betrayed by her lovers. One day, she stopped beliving in love, and became bitter. This bitterness poisoned her, and led to her death. Aruera reincarnated into a molle tree, still accompanied by the poison that filled her heart. Today, when encountering a molle tree, it is tradition to “trick” the tree, to avoid suffering its ill effects. One should greet the tree as if it were the opposite time of day, saying “Good morning” in the evening, and “Good evening” in the morning.   The preparation of the molle aloja beverage begins by pounding the fruit in mortars to release their juice. This is mixed with water and fermented in containers made of locust wood logs for three or four days. The liquid is later filtered through a canvas cloth before being packaged in bottles. For the indigenous people, the molle tree was important not only for preparing drinks, but also used to preform healings.   Today, production of molle aloja is generally for home consumption, to share with family and friends. Some can be found selling the drink in regional food fairs or festivals. Today, however, the molle tree is under threat from deforestation, and there are no commercial plantings of this wild species. Furthermore, Argentinians have replaced this traditional drink in their diet with processed beverages for sale in supermarkets. Younger generations are less aware of this once common traditional drink.  

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