Poroto del Monte

Ark of taste
Back to the archive >

Poroto del monte (Capparis retusa Griseb), meaning ‘bean from the forest,’ is known throughout the Gran Chaco area (a large, semi-arid region divide among Paraguay, Bolivia, northern Argentina and southwestern Brazil) by many other names: ababán, anyuk, azucena del monte, cocol, îguîrá pororó, porotillo, poroto guaicurú (‘Guaicurù bean’), yvirá pororó and Sacha poroto (Sacha bean). They grow on a medium sized, branching tree that grows 2-5 meters tall that produces pods, or chauchas, which look similar to bean pods. Pods contain 4-10 seeds each. The tree grows best in dry and sunny areas, fruiting in the summer and ready for harvest in January and February. Yield is inconsistent from year to year, but each year some of the crop is eaten fresh and some is preserved for future use. The beans are eaten after they have been boiled for several hours with five to seven changes of the boiling water, which becomes bitter. If the beans are harvested at their peak ripeness, they may be boiled for only one to two hours, with three or four changes of water. Once the cooking water remains clear and tasteless, the high protein beans are ready, and have a taste similar to creamy peas. Filtering the liquid from mashed beans provides a product said to fight chicken pox. The beans destined for preservation are traditionally dried in the sun, though a few people today use underground ovens to speed the process. These beans are stored indoors and can last for several months. Poroto de monte is abundant in Gran Chaco and is well known and used by the native Wichì people. There is no documented use of it in the Creole or European communities of Argentina. The wild plants are harvested, not cultivated, but no record of quantities is kept. The harvest is used by those who collect it, and is not sold to others. The risk of poroto de monte disappearing is strictly tied to the cultural nature of this food, limited to the indigenous peoples that collect it from nature. Because of the systematic disappearance of the forest ecosystem and the transition to a Westernized diet, this product is at risk of being lost. In addition, because the beans often must be cooked for a long period of time, some people lack the wood needed to keep a fire going for so long and therefore cannot prepare the poroto de monte.

Back to the archive >




Other info



Indigenous community: Qom, Wichi, Qomle'ec e Pilagá