Apurimac River Valley Achira

Ark of taste
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The achira (Canna indica) is one of the least known domesticated plants even though it boasts a long history. This plant can be found in some areas of tropical America but it is rarely grown.

It was sold in various parts of the world in the past but has only been associated with so-called “marginal community” agriculture in the Western Hemisphere.

The cultivation of achira and its use are no longer as widespread as they once were, but various uses are still documented in some areas of Peru and Ecuador. This variety of edible canna, known by its Quechua name “achira”, is widespread in the Andes. Harvesting and use in cooking is limited to local Quechua speaking communities which live in the Cusco Department, near the valley of the Apurimac river, where mainly two varieties of achira are grown: the green cultivar and “mordada” achira which differ visually due to the color of the roots and leaves.

Achira has a stalk one meter high which is wrapped by a series of laminar shaped leaves; the root is tuberous, round, dark in colour and with a wood-like consistency. Harvesting of the edible parts is done using a specific instrument, called “chakitakila”.

The leaves and rhizome are used for eating purposes; the leaves are eaten fresh while the rhizome can be used as is, boiled or smoked. The leaves are also used for wrapping cheese. The roots are also used. They are dried and then grated: the powder is mixed with water in order to obtain an easy to digest starch, used to feed children, the elderly and the ill. Achira is also used as feed for animals and in folk medicine.

It was traditionally consumed during the religious celebrations for Corpus Christi, since it was harvested the week before. Harvesting involves the participation of many and becomes a time of socialisation where, in addition to preparing the ovens (in Quechua: huatia) to dry the achira, time is spent together enjoying drinks such as chicha and other traditional foods.

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Production area:Apurimac river valley

Other info


Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Indigenous community:Quechua communities
Nominated by:Dauro Mattia Zocchi, Alessandra Vesta Pinasco García-Miró