Chontaduro

Ark of taste
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Chontaduro (Bactris gasipaes var. Chichagui), also traditionally called cachipay, jijirre, bobi, cachipaes, pichuguao, pijuayo, pupunha, supa, tembé, is a palm tree that grows up to 20 metres tall, it is found in tropical forests from 0 to 1200 metres above sea level, although its ideal habitat is at 800 metres above sea level. Its trunk is thin, and in most varieties, it is covered with hard spines. It adapts to a wide variety of climatic conditions. It prefers deep, well-drained soil, but tolerates poor, acidic soil. Its fruits are round, 2.5 to 6 centimetres long, with colours ranging from orange to reddish or yellow. The flesh is firm, fibrous, floury and surrounds a hard seed with a diameter of 2 centimetres.
The Amazon is the largest orchard ever planted, and chontaduro is its main crop. The chontaduro is undoubtedly one of the pillars of the anthropogenic forest systems developed by the peoples of South America’s tropical forests. The composition of the natural forest has been slowly altered through the introduction of useful species and vegetation management models, resulting in an ecosystem similar in function to the primary forest but with an abundance of useful resources for humans.
Nowadays, chontaduro consumption has decreased significantly. Although there are large agro-industrial plantations, their target is the tender bud, sold under the name of heart of palm. These monocultures often suffer from the constant attack of harmful beetles, such as the plane tree "Picudo negro" (Rhynchophorus palmarum), due to the lack of biodiversity and the stress the plant suffers from not being protected in the ecosystem of the forest.
The heart of palm is soft, very white and delicious when pickled. It is used as an ingredient in salads and ceviche.
The fruit takes a long time to cook, up to two hours. It is most commonly cooked with the skin on and salted. It can also be roasted or baked. It is possible to make chonta or roasted chonta flour. By weight, it is one of the most complete and rich foods of the tropics. Its oil content is visible in the cooking water. This oil is traditionally used to add flavour and colour to various dishes.
Its most common use in the Amazon is to prepare chicha de chontaduro, a drink made by adding water to a mixture of cooked, crushed and fermented chontaduro. Besides being refreshing and thirst-quenching, it has a high nutritional value.
Indigenous communities have eaten the fruit, both for its pulp and for its seed, which tastes similar to coconut.
The product is at serious risk of extinction, projects to revive the ancient cultivation practices are slow and pest control campaigns in the area have created soil fertility problems. Attempts are now being made to activate new cultivations, which are managed using organic methods.

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StateEcuador

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Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Nominated by:Chef Cristian Puente, Pikaia Lodge, Relais & Châteaux