Ollucos have their origin the high plains of the Peruvian Andes and are cultivated since pre-Columbian times. Next to potatoes and corn this root vegetable was an important
staple food of the Incas. They come in different shapes and sizes, but usually look like a potato. Papa Lisa, as the olluco is called as well, is orange to yellow in color with
red or purple spots on the outside and has a crisp texture. Ollucos are used in various Peruvian dishes and mainly eaten cooked, mashed or baked similar to a potato. But
not only are the tubers of the Ulluco plant used, but also the leaves. They are mostly added to salads. The traditional Andean way of conservation and preparation of Olluco
is to make a special chuño, which is a freeze-dried potato, called llingli. Each year on the 5th of October various Andean communities in Huancavelica celebrate the "Dia del
Olluquito" (the day of the ullco) by preparing famous dishes with this great root vegetable.
Ollucos look like bright colorful potatoes but they are something quite different. These Andean tubers have a somewhat slimy and watery texture, nothing in common to that
of potatoes, and they can be eaten raw or cooked, although the latter is preffered as part of stews and chupes (thick soups). The name comes from the quechua word
“ullucu” which means tuber. These unique vegetables have beautiful colors, from pale or bright yellow to orange, pink, and red. And they come in many different sizes, from
tiny (like grapes), to big (larger than baking potatoes).
There is no need to peel them, just scrub them well under running water and cut in fine sticks or rounds to use in any
recipe. Keep at room temperature until ready to use.
Ulluco is a type of tuber, or thick edible root, that comes from South America. Some have compared the ulluco to potatoes, although they do not ever need to be peeled and
they have a nutty taste. In South America, the roots are prepared in several ways in a variety of dishes, similar to how potatoes are used in North America and Europe.
The original home of the ulluco is the Andes Mountains region of South America, which is situated in both Peru and Bolivia. Popularity of the root spread to the surrounding
areas of the continent, and has become a staple in many traditional South American dishes. The root is commonly used to thicken stews, is pickled in spicy sauces or is
mixed with meats. Because of the popularity of the root, other areas of the world are beginning to explore cultivating ulluco, including New Zealand and Great Britain. The
appearance of ulluco varies between different strains. Some are rounded, like potatoes, while others are long and skinny. The roots come in a variety of colors, including
yellow, brown, white, red and green. In fact, some strains come with two colors on the outside, sometimes in a candy stripe pattern. Inside, the roots appear either yellow or
white. The plant’s leaves are green and have a texture very similar to spinach.
Preparing an ulluco to eat takes little effort, compared to other tubers. The skin is thin and soft enough that a cook does not need to peel the roots before cooking them.
Some varieties of the root have more mucilage than do others, which makes the roots chewy. A cook can either soak the roots in water or boil them before using them in a
dish, removing the extra mucilage and making the roots more enjoyable for eating. Both the root and leaves of the ulluco offer high nutritional value. Because of their
nutritional benefits, the roots have increased in popularity amongst health-conscious consumers who do not live in South America. The roots and leaves both are rich in
calcium, protein and carotene, with the roots also containing high levels of fiber and starch. Originally, the ulluco was one of the so-called lost crops of the Incan civilization.
Various pieces of Inca archeological artifacts point toward the root’s use and importance, with the roots appearing on artwork of various forms. Later, when the Spaniards
occupied South America, the root and many other indigenous crops were almost wiped out or forgotten in favor of crops with European origins.
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