Ark of taste
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Muña (Minthostachys mollis) is an aromatic plant belonging to the Laminacee family, which is the same as mint, rosemary and oregano. This plant is endemic in the Andes and can be found scattered in some areas along the cordillera; in Peru it is found in the south, in the Andean departments of Junin, Ayacucho and Cuzco. Muña grows along mountain slopes, close to watercourses and cultivated fields; in the Andean areas many varieties of muña exist, growing in altitudes between 2500 and 3500 meters above sea level. This shrub plays an important part in the traditions of the Andean communities, especially because of its versatility: it can be used to repel infesting plants and insects, which could damage the few crops that grow in such altitudes. Muña was also used in the Incan era to conserve potatoes. The contact of the tubers with the leaves of this plant reduces the risk of putrefaction or germination. In the area of Ayacucho, on the other hand, the woody trunk of the plant and its resin are the ingredient in a powder used to fabricate fireworks for the local Patron Saint’s day.

Muña is also known for its nutritive qualities: it has a high calcium and iron content and some medicinal properties. The leaves are used to make infusions for curing intestinal pains and indigestion.
From a gastronomic point of view, muña is used as an ingredient in dishes such as the chupes (an Andean stew), soups, or sauces. Many of the dishes are connected to the traditions of the Aymara populations, a community living along the shores of Lake Titicaca. One of the ones worth mentioning is the shihuayro, a condiment prepared and used by Andean shepherds during transhumance.
The lack of knowledge and awareness of the properties of this plant in combination with the depopulation of the Andean areas, threaten the loss of the use of this product and the traditional knowledge connected to it.

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Spices, wild herbs and condiments

Nominated by:Dauro Mattia Zocchi