Ark of taste
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Añu (Tropaeolum tuberosum) is a herbaceous plant belonging to the family of Tropaeolacea, 20 to 80 cm high, whose interest lies mainly in the tuber, eaten as food. The tuber, whose texture is sandy, can be tapered, conical or elongated in shape and may be of various colors, yellow being dominant, with blackish or orange eyes. Shape and color are used to distinguish its different varieties, that are all good sources of carbohydrates and proteins. The plant is easy to cultivate: it grows on poor soils, does not require the use of fertilizers and pesticides, is resistant to frost and in its natural state is able to repel insects and nematodes. The tubers are removed by hand, 6 to 8 months after planting, and can be stored for up to 6 months in a cold and ventilated place. They may even be stored underground, to be extracted when needed. Tubers fresh from the ground are bitter and therefore out-of-hand consumption is very low, except for indigenous populations. Cooking improves its flavor. It is consumed cooked, frozen and sopado in molasses. Occasionally it is also used to thicken soups or even in wathia (cooked in the hot sun for several days). Anaphrodisiac and medicinal properties for liver and kidneys are attributed to Añu. It is used as a cleanser, to cure venereal diseases and it also stops bleeding and heals internal and external wounds. It has a high content of carbohydrates (11% on fresh basis) and ascorbic acid. The protein content can vary from 6.9-15.9% on dry basis. The main component of tropaeolaceas are glucosinolates, which may be responsible for the medicinal use of the species.The tender shoots and flowers are cooked and consumed as vegetables as well. Añu was domesticated in the Andes thousands of years ago, as it is evidenced by ceramic representations. Since then, it has always been a part of the eating patterns of the Andean people. Its original cultivation area extends from southern Mexico and throughout South America, and this crop was a common food for indigenous peoples, but over time its consumption went more and more declining. One aspect that stands out is the loss of product knowledge and, even more, the lack of training of the new generations.Añu contributes to the diversity of tubers grown in the Andes, but its future is uncertain, as its qualities of hardiness, tolerance to diseases and pests, good performance and low inputs for farming, can not counterbalance the lack of interest in the market. The plant is in fact only grown in small batches or as borders around other major crops such as potatoes, from Colombia to northern Argentina, and can generally not be found in the market.

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