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«Andean roots and tubers: Ahipa, arracacha, maca and yacon M. Hermann and J. Heller, editors Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and ...»

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1993). Booming service industries have forced out arracacha culture around metropolitan São Paulo. For example, the former arracacha-growing municipality of Piedade near São Paulo nowadays acts as a transshipment point for arracacha from all over Brazil. Piedade no longer produces arracacha, but washes, classifies and packs arracacha from other states for sale on the wholesale market CEAGESP in São Paulo (Fig. 2C).

The average farm-gate price in recent years has fluctuated between US$0.40 and $0.60/kg and, assuming an average value of $0.50/kg, the off-farm value of total arracacha production in Brazil should have been around US$55 million in 1996.

Arracacha is a regular item in all major cities of southern Brazil (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, etc.). Retail prices are typically between US$1.50 and 2.00/kg; arracacha is thus the most expensive root and is as highly valued as fruit vegetables such as giló (Solanum sp.), Capsicum peppers and quiabo (Abelmoschus esculentus) (Hermann, field notes, 1991, 1994, 1995). In early 1995, arracacha retail prices soared to unprecedented levels, because of frost-related crop losses in the 1994/95 season. In August of 1995, supermarket prices in Brasilia were still between US$4.00 and 6.00/kg. This suggests inelastic demand, which is likely the result of habitual purchases of small quantities of arracacha for child nutrition by many 88 Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft) Fig. 2. Arracacha utilization in Brazil. A: arracacha specialist Dr Fausto Santos (CNPH-EMBRAPA) interviewing Japanese immigrant farmer in Distrito Federal (loc. Alexandre Gusmão, 50 km S of Brasilia, 1100 m asl, photograph July 1992); B: productive arracacha plant in EMBRAPA germplasm collection, Brasilia (photograph 1994); C: arracacha on wholesale market CEAGESP in São Paulo (photograph August 1994); D: processed arracacha flakes ready for shipment at Nutrimental Company, São José dos Pinhais, Curitiba, Paraná (photograph August 1994).

Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 89 Brazilian families. During a visit to the Federal District in August 1996, I noted that arracacha prices had decreased but were still high (farm-gate value varied between US$1.40 and 1.80/kg washed roots).

Brazilian researchers agree that only one yellow-rooted clone is being grown in Brazil. This is based on the evaluation of germplasm accessions from different parts of the country, which have not revealed morphological or agronomic variation attributable to genetic causes. The Brazilian clone which is often referred to in publications as Amarela de Carandai has an intensive yellow root pigmentation, purplish petiole bases and, compared with the more common Andean germplasm, a strong flavour. Intensive yellow colour and strong flavour are required by the fresh market and the processing industry. Casali et al. (1984) report germplasm trials conducted at the Instituto Agronômico Campinas (IAC) which did not result in the identification of clones superior in this regard to the Brazilian material. Likewise, introduced materials from Ecuador were not considered promising in evaluations in Brasilia. Although this predominantly white-fleshed germplasm yielded more than the Brazilian clone, root colour and flavour were considered unsatisfactory (Dr F.F. Santos, 1994, pers. comm.).

Arracacha is typically grown by small farmers with less than 1 ha of arracacha per holding. Yields average 6-14 t/ha in Paraná and Minas Gerais (Hamerschmidt 1984; Santos 1984), 15-30 t/ha in São Paulo (with irrigation; Monteiro et al. 1993) and a nation-wide mean of 8 t/ha has been reported (Santos 1993). Plantings are yearround, with marketed volumes reaching a maximum between July and September when prices are lowest (Santos 1993). Several Brazilian companies process arracacha for instant food (see Section 5.4.1, Fig. 2).

Since 1984, five biannual mandioquinha-salsa meetings have brought together the major players of the arracacha industry in Brazil, namely farmers, market people, industrial users, extensionists and researchers, and their informal cooperation has greatly stimulated research and arracacha utilization.

2.3 Central America and Caribbean Arracacha as a botanical genus (Arracacia Bancroft) and species was described from cultivated material introduced to Jamaica in the early 19th century (Mathias and Constance 1944). The plant seems to have been spread widely in the Caribbean, although it is only sporadically grown. We have only limited knowledge on its cultivation in Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Williams (1981) quotes reports of arracacha in Central America, specifically in Guatemala and Costa Rica, but says he has not seen it there. According to Dr Jorge Leon (1996, pers. comm.), the crop was cultivated in Panama around 1920. Hodge (1954) relates some evidence pointing to limited arracacha culture in the past in this country, specifically in the highlands around the Chiriquí volcano near the border with Costa Rica (approximate latitude: 8°45’ N). Significant commercial arracacha production in Central America appears to be limited to Costa Rica’s central highlands (Cordillera Central).

90 Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft) 2.3.1 Costa Rica According to Andean crop and Central America specialist Dr Jorge Leon (1996, pers.

comm.), there are no references of arracacha cultivation in Costa Rica until the 1940s.





He specifically refers to publications of Pittier (1908; ‘Plantas usuales de Costa Rica’) and Wercklé (1914; ‘San Jose market survey’) who do not mention arracacha (full bibliographic data not available). Since the 1940s, however, arracacha is reported to have been grown in the central highlands, especially in Cartago (Pacayas, Capellados), Heredia (San Isidro, Santa Barbara, Irazú region) and Alajuela (Zarcero, San Ramón, Carrizal) at altitudes of 1500-2200 m. There are probably not more than 10 ha of arracacha in all of Costa Rica, typically grown in small plots. The only variety referred to in the country under the name of arracacha has white roots and green foliage (Dr J. Leon, 1996, pers. comm.). Finely chopped arracacha ready for cooking is sold in farmers’ markets at a price of US$2.00-2.50/kg. It is used as a filling for picadillos, a traditional Costa Rican dish served on patron saint’s day (see Section 5.3) (Mr J.A. Morera, 1996, pers. comm.).

2.3.2 Puerto Rico This small island’s cosmopolitan past has made it a ‘melting pot’ for food plants from Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. Cultural influences and exotic ingredients in Puerto Rico have blended into a unique cuisine which, according to Sokolov (1993), is the richest expression of Caribbean cooking. It is thus no surprise that Puerto Ricans annually consume about 0.7 kg of arracacha per capita (calculated from data provided in Valle et al. 1989 and assuming a total population of 3.3 million for Puerto Rico in the same year).

According to Cook and Collins (1903), apio has been grown in Puerto Rico at least since 1903 when it was found planted extensively “in the mountains behind Ponce.” Today it continues to be grown commercially in the central mountains near Barranquitas and Orocovis, in deep clay soils at altitudes less than 900 m and comparatively high mean temperatures (over 23°C). Although not ranked as a major root crop, apio is “very popular and in great demand when available” (Valle et al. 1989). Total insular production in 1985-86 was 2295 t, with a total farm value of US$1.05 million; hence, the farm-gate value was $0.46/kg. Valle et al. (1989) report the results of sensory evaluations of four clones introduced to Puerto Rico from Colombia. Interestingly, yellow-fleshed clones received higher ratings than a white clone which was moderately acceptable in appearance, flavour and texture.

2.3.3 Cuba Arracacha, or afió, is believed to have been introduced to Cuba by French immigrants from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Haiti (Esquivel and Hammer 1992) and is used in Guantánamo for certain desserts. However, arracacha is rarely offered on markets and Cubans are usually unaware of this crop (Dr Lianne Fernández, 1996, pers. comm.). According to several authors reviewed by Esquivel et al. (1992), the Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 91 name afió has an African origin. The same authors report the use of arracacha leaves and stems in fritters, a popular food across the Caribbean.

2.4 Old World Several documents from the late 19th century testify to attempts by the British colonial government to introduce arracacha from Jamaica via the Kew Botanical Garden to India and what is today Sri Lanka. Some of the shipments survived the long sea journey to Sri Lanka and were apparently bulked up for distribution of planting material “to the headmen of villages at 2000 feet or more elevation, in the hope of its culture being taken up by the villagers” (Anonymous 1887, quoting colonial administrative correspondence). We do not know whether these efforts ever succeeded and what the status of arracacha in Sri Lanka is today.

Similarly, L'Heureux and Bastin (1936) state that arracacha was introduced to Central Africa (Burundi, Rwanda), but the authors do not say to what extent the crop spread, if at all.

Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft)

–  –  –

‘Arracacha’ is derived from the Quechua word racacha (Alvarez 1990) and is widely understood in the Andes, except in Ecuador and Venezuela. Even Aymará-speaking people in Bolivia often use it instead of their own word lacachu (Hermann, 1989, field notes in Larejaca). Arracacha has also been accepted as the standard term in the English literature. Terms such as ‘Peruvian carrot’ or ‘Peruvian parsnip’ are confusing and their use in the literature should be discontinued.

Peru undoubtedly has the greatest variety of vernacular names for arracacha (Table 2). The term racacha is widespread in Arequipa, Puno and Tacna, but in Cusco and Apurímac, virraca seems to be preferred, whilst ricacha is popular in the north of the country (Amazonas, Cajamarca).

The Quechua language spread in the late 15th century from a limited area in the Cusco valley to become the lingua franca of the Inca empire that came to comprise the Andes from Ecuador to northern Chile. In the course of this cultural expansion, many indigenous languages perished and racacha supplanted previously used names. As Table 2 shows, indigenous words denoting arracacha are reported from Colombia and Venezuela, specifically from areas that were hardly ever controlled by the Incas, and only then for a few decades before the Spanish arrived. The record of words like aricachi (Ayomán language, Venezuela) or arocueche (in the extinct Muzo language, middle Magdalena, Colombia) raises the interesting question as to whether these terms are derived from racacha and, if so, whether the derivation occurred during and after the Inca conquest, or in archaic times, when arracacha spread across the Andes. Patiña (1964) presents some linguististic evidence for arocueche being an autochthonous Muzo word and considers it unlikely to have been merely a late deformation of racacha. Arracacha, he argues, might well be of northern Andean origin, and it might in remote times have been taken to the central Andes where the original term evolved into racacha only to return to replace its linguistic precursors. We can conclude with Patina that “these are issues to be proposed but not to be resolved”.

“We have dared not, in order to not say something foolish”... “Pay attention, Eloy, to the mate you are going to have, so that you don’t pay any attention to him when he does something foolish” (Translation by Bill Hardy).

Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 93 Table 2. Vernacular names of arracacha

–  –  –

In Spanish, the term arracachal (plural: arracachales) denotes an arracacha field.

In the Cauca Department, Colombia, another derivative, arracachada, is synonymous in vernacular language with ‘nonsense’, blunder’ or ‘silliness’ (see epigraph).

As shown in Table 2, outside South America, names for arracacha are derived predominantly from Spanish and Portuguese. Simple or compound terms involving apio (= celery), zanahoria and cenoura (= carrot), pastinaca (= parsnip) and salsa (= parsley) were coined by European immigrants and their folk taxonomy correctly identifies arracacha as closely related to these plants (they all belong to the umbelliferous subfamily Apioideae).

Brazil has a great variety of common names for arracacha. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, batata-baroa or the ‘Baron’s potato’ is used. This name alludes to the alleged introduction of arracacha to Brazil by Baron de Friburgo, a nobleman from the state of Rio de Janeiro (Zanin and Casali 1984a). A São Paulo vegetable vendor, however, will not understand the term and may, eager to please the foreign customer as it happened to me, search for especially immaculate potatoes. To resolve the confusion arising from the wide range of terms for arracacha in Brazil, mandioquinha-salsa from the state of São Paulo was adopted as the official Brazilian word and it is now widely used in science and commerce. Mandioquinha is the Portuguese diminutive for cassava and salsa means parsley, so the official word nicely describes the similarity of arracacha with root and leaf shapes of these plants.

Cultivar names in Spanish refer to root colour, as in arracacha amarilla (yellow arracacha) or arracacha blanca (white arracacha), or denote a supposed origin, as in Salamineña (from Salamina), but there is not a great wealth of such names. In Peruvian Quechua, cultivar names are also mostly descriptive of colour and do not suggest great genetic variability as the rich folk taxonomy of the potato does. For example, in Cusco, an arracacha variety with pinkish pigmentation in the vascular ring, vaguely resembling make-up on an eyelid, is referred to as pasña racacha (= girl’s arracacha). Then, there is qu’ello racacha (= yellow), yurac racacha (= white) and qu’ulli racacha (= deep purple). However, the same name is often applied to different cultivars (Hermann, field notes, 1990). Meza (1995) reports the following Quechua Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21.



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