Nariño ulloco

Ark of taste
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Nariño ulloco

Ulloco (Ullucus tuberosus) is a plant that is native to the South American Andes. In Colombia it is cultivated for the most part in the Nariño department, in the country’s southeast. The edible root, which is small and has an irregular long shape, is rich in starch and has a peculiar sticky consistency. The edible leaves can be of different colours, depending on the soil in which the plant grows; in Nariño department they are green, though elsewhere they can be white, red, fuchsia, pink, orange or green. The skin is quite thin, soft, and once cooked it is very delicate.

The original name in Quechua is Ulluku or Ulluma, while in Spanish it goes by several names: melloco, olloco, ulluco, rubia, ruba, tiquiño, mucuchi, michurui muguri, ruhuas, hubas, chubas, chigua, ulluca, ulluma and papa lisa. In addition to starch, Ulloco is also rich in sugars, proteins, vitamin C and fibre. Traditional recipes in which this tuber is used generally call for long cooking times, like soups or creams. It can also be eaten raw, cut into long thin strips and eaten with salad. When added to meat, tomato sauce, onions, peanuts and other tubers you get traditional dishes like cocido boyacense.

Given its ancient origins, which predate the Spanish by quite a bit, and its low prices due to the ease in its cultivation, the links between the Ulloco and traditional culture of people from Nariño are incredibly strong. Green ulloco is present in pre-Columbian art, and traces of the tuber that date to 5,500 years ago were found in various Andean regions. The product’s arrival in Colombia is associated with the arrival of the Incas in the southern area of the country. Today ulloco is mainly connected to the indigenous quillacingas farming communities. The product is sold in Pasto’s Mercado de Potrerillo, but only in small quantities, as it is usually grown for personal consumption. This product is at risk of disappearing due to the low selling price that discourages farmers, especially when the cultivation work, requiring plenty of light and specific care, are taken into consideration.

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Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Indigenous community:Quillacinga