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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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Daylength appears to have no influence on flower induction (Bajaña 1994; see also Section 4.3.1).

Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft)

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Arracacha is grown for its storage roots and, overwhelmingly, these constitute the principal economic product. However, all harvestable plant parts can be used for human and animal nutrition. The texture and chemical composition of the rootstock and cormel are similar to those of the storage root, but the rootstock is somewhat more fibrous (Higuita 1969). The rootstock is even superior in nutritional quality, as it has elevated protein (1.3 times) and mineral contents (e.g. calcium 2.1 times) compared with the roots (calculated from data in Camara 1984a; data from Brazilian commercial clone only). Table 5 compares dry matter content and its variation of the root, rootstock and other harvestable plant parts for different clones and growing sites. According to this table, dry matter of the rootstock varies more than that of other plant parts. Cormels always have lower dry matter content than either roots or rootstocks.

Table 5. Variation in dry matter content (%) of arracacha by plant part

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Source and growth conditions: (1) Calculated from data presented in Câmara 1984a, experiments in Viçosa, Minas Gerais (Brazil), only values for plants harvested between 8 and 11 months are taken into account; (2) Hermann, unpublished data, clones ECU1161, ECU1179, ECU1181, germplasm field collection, 2400 m asl, plants 20 months old; (3) Hermann, unpublished data, from commercial production by small farmers in San José de Minas, Pichincha, 1960 m altitude, crop 14 months old.

n.d. = no data.

Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 119 In the Kamsá language of the Sibundoy Indians of southern Colombia, the same words denote both arracacha roots and rootstock (Bristol 1988; see Table 3).

Indiscriminate use and preparation of both parts for food and lumping them in one pile during harvest, as observed by Bristol in 1962-63, corroborates that the Sibundoy indeed have no concept for roots as opposed to rootstock in arracacha. In his noteworthy review on the ethnobotany of arracacha in Colombia, Hodge (1954) pictures a Bogota vegetable vendor selling arracacha rootstocks, presumably for human consumption. Fifteen years later, presenting yield responses in nine Colombian genotypes, Higuita (1969) pooled root and rootstock weights to give "total yields". This probably indicates widespread commercial use of the rootstock in Colombia at the time of publication of the article. According to Mr J.J. Rivera (1996, pers. comm.), the use of arracacha rootstocks is still common in the Colombian department of Boyacá.

Usually, however, the rootstock and aerial plant parts (cormels, petioles and leaf blades), which can account for a considerable part of total biomass, are fed to domestic animals, especially pigs. The tender petioles and leaves have been reported to be eaten in Cuba (see Section 2.3.3), but I have never encountered this practice during extensive travel in South America nor references to it. Non-food uses of cultivated arracacha or its processed products have, to my awareness, not been recorded. (See, however, the medicinal uses of wild Arracacia species described in Section

5.1 Chemical composition and its variation Root dry matter of arracacha can range from 17 to 34% of the fresh weight according to data in the literature (reviewed in Pereira 1995; see Table 6). Values beyond 30%, however, occur only in genotypes which were recently selected by Brazilian researchers (Santos and Pereira 1994). Relatively high dry matter values have been reported from commercial ware in Venezuela (27%; Czyhrinciw and Jaffé 1951) and Colombia (24-28%; Higuita 1968, 1969) and from trials in Brazil (22-25%; Câmara 1984a). In Ecuador, a lesser range of 16-20% has consistently been found (Mazón et al. 1996; Hermann, unpublished data). The overwhelming part of arracacha root dry matter is carbohydrates, of which about 95% is starch and 5% is sugars (mainly sucrose) (Câmara 1984a).

Data in Table 6 show that arracacha is also a good source for ascorbic acid, vitamin A and minerals, especially calcium. The daily requirements for these nutrients can be met by consumption of comparatively small amounts of arracacha. The root, however, is a poor source for protein, with an average of about 1% protein in the fresh matter or 4% protein in the dry matter. There are conflicting reports as to the most limiting amino acid in arracacha protein: analyses reported in Câmara (1984a) identify lysine, whereas Pereira (1995) concludes from independent results that isoleucine is in the minimum compared with the FAO standard protein.

As can be seen in Table 6, vitamin A or carotenoids are by far the most variable nutrients, with the maximum value being 27 times the minimum observed. Carotene 120 Arracacha ( Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft) is a pigment and its varying concentrations cause the wide range of root colours from white over cream to yellow and orange in arracacha germplasm collections.

Studies by Almeida and Penteado (1987) showed that b-carotene is the principal carotenoid present in the commercial Brazilian clone (86 mg/100 mg edible portion) and that 30% of it is lost by cooking roots for 10 minutes.

Table 6. Variation in chemical composition of arracacha roots (per 100 g edible portion)†

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† Adapted from Pereira 1995 (based on a literature review and the author’s results).

‡ Author’s calculations.

§ International units.

5.2 Food uses The use of arracacha in food, whether for direct consumption or for processed products, can be explained in terms of three characteristics: starch content and quality, colour and flavour. Particular, and not yet understood, functional properties of arracacha starch are of crucial importance for most dishes and processed products.

There is also a widespread belief that arracacha (or its starch) is easily digested and Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21.

therefore an ideal food for children and the ailing. Hodge (1954) claims that arracacha starch is less flatulent than the starch of potato (Solanum tuberostum). In Loja, southern Ecuador, a strict 40-day diet commonly followed by women after giving birth includes arracacha to the exclusion of potatoes (Mrs Joy Horton de Hofmann, 1997, pers. comm.). Arracacha adds unique colours to dishes and processed products, especially the yellow-rooted clones, which assume a vivid orange colour after heat treatment. Opinion as to the umbelliferous aroma of arracacha, however, is divided.

Some people are fond of it, and others loathe it. It is a unique aroma, but it is clearly reminiscent of parsley, celery and other umbelliferous vegetables.

Unlike many other roots, arracacha is not unpleasant to eat raw, but cooking is required to soften its tissue and gelatinize its starch, thus rendering it more digestible.

This is why arracacha roots are never eaten raw. Even thinly sliced, arracacha does not hold much promise for applications in salads or other raw food, as it lacks the acid or sweet compounds present in oca (Oxalis turbeuosa) and ahipa (Pachyrhizus ahipa) which, combined with special textures, provide interesting new tastes.

5.3 Direct consumption Traditionally, arracacha is used in soups, purées and especially stews locally called chupe (Peru), locro (Peru, Ecuador), sancocho (Colombia) and cocido (Venezuela). The classical sancocho and the closely related cocido include meat, pork, potato ( S.

tuberosum ), cassava, plantains, arracacha, optional pork sausages, onions and the indispensable leaf coriander ( Coriandrum sativum ). Variations of this dish include viudo de pescado from the Magdalena valley (Tolima, Colombia), in which fish replaces meat and pork, and the mondongo from Antioquia, a stew with arracacha, potatoes, sausages and beef tripe as the characteristic ingredients.

Soups and purées having arracacha as their main starchy ingredient are deliciously creamy and light food. Frying arracacha also gives interesting results;

however, it reduces the typical arracacha aroma and deep-fried arracacha strips are, especially when made from the white-rooted, less aromatic clones, virtually indistinguishable from (potato) french fries. Frying also compromises reducing sugars in the Maillard reaction, and produces dark and undesirable colours in some arracacha genotypes that are presumably high in reducing sugars.

Modern Brazilian cuisine has added quite a few creative arracacha recipes. Soufflé de mandioquinha-salsa requires cooked and hot arracachas to be mashed and mixed with butter and egg yolks. After stiffly beaten egg-whites are folded into this mixture, it is baked to expand greatly in volume (Sangirardi 1988). Rio de Janeiro has invented batata baroa em calda (arracacha compote), which involves blanched arracacha pieces being cooked in dissolved sugar (Weiss 1995) as is also done with a variety of fruits.

Another popular arracacha dessert comes from the northern Andes. Called pasteles in Ecuador or buñuelos de apio in Venezuela, this recipe calls for the cooked and mashed arracacha roots to be mixed with butter, eggs and sugar. This mass is shaped and fried in oil. A salty version of this dish is equally popular in Venezuela (Dr Maria L. García, 1996, pers. comm.).

122 Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft) In Minas Gerais, Brazil, descendants of Italian immigrants use arracacha instead of potato in the well-known gnocchi dish. This gives a special and light consistency and arracacha is thus preferred over the original ingredient. Sokolov (1993) mentions the use of arracacha in the alcapurrius of Puerto Rico. This is a fritter whose dough is a mixture of purees from arracacha, glutinous plantain and starchy yautía (Xanthosoma sagittifolium). This dough is stuffed with a meat filling, shaped into fritters and deep-fried.

In Costa Rica, arracacha is used finely chopped and fried with minced meat and onions as a filler in tortillas de maiz. This traditional dish is called picadillos; it is served during church celebrations on patron saint’s day(Drs J. León and N. Mateo, 1996, pers. comm.). In conclusion, arracacha offers a great variety of culinary uses, which is unsurpassed by other starchy roots and tubers.

5.4 Processing Arracacha is overwhelmingly used for direct consumption, but several processed products would almost certainly be produced in higher volumes were it not for the elevated raw material prices that result from the popular esteem of the root for direct consumption. The almost complete absence of processed arracacha in the Andes, however, can only be explained in terms of a lack of entrepreneurial initiative since the crop can be produced with great ease and is relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, Brazil has a wide range of processed products, but its companies struggle with high raw material costs that limit the proportion of arracacha in processed products (Hermann 1995).

5.4.1 Instant food In its processing plant in San José de Rio Pardo, São Paulo state, Nestle-Brazil uses arracacha as an ingredient in both wet and dry formulae of instant soups and baby food. In fact, all non-sweet Nestlé products in Brazil contain some arracacha, but only up to about 15% of total product dry weight. The particular flavour and food consistency achieved by using arracacha are considered decisive for its use. The company processed about 300 t of arracacha annually between 1985 and 1993.

Nutrimental, a company in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil, specializes in the production of dehydrated vegetables, which are sold to other food-processing companies such as Knorr for use in dry formulations of purees and soups (Fig.

2D). Nutrimental produces flour and flakes from arracacha. The bright orange colour of dehydrated arracacha flakes is particularly attractive and not found in other vegetables (dehydrated carrots are deep red). Processing involves abrasive peeling, slicing, blanching and drying flakes batch-wise in forced-ventilated ovens. Nutrimental processed 400 t of arracacha in 1991. Nutrimental managers are considering the development of an instant purée for infants based on arracacha because of the good reputation this dish enjoys with the population (Hermann 1995).

Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 123 5.4.2 Chips Arracacha chips have been available for several years in Quito supermarkets from production by the Quiteña company in Calderón, near Quito. This company processed 50 t of fresh roots in 1994. Although the quality of these chips leaves room for improvement, they sell well, and with a better supply of raw material, the company could sell more. Arracacha processed in Quiteña comes from San José de Minas in Pichincha province. It is comparatively low in dry matter (up to 20%) and darkens after frying, as do a few other Ecuadorean clones tested so far (Hermann 1996).

Promising results with arracacha chips have been achieved in pilot trials at the Krebauer company, Brasilia, using the traditional Brazilian clone. Experiments yielded arracacha chips of excellent quality and acceptance. Crispness was similar to that of potato chips, but a trained panel consistently rated the appearance of arracacha chips superior to that of potato chips. Panelists emphasized the light sweetness of arracacha chips as an attractive and distinctive feature. Additional advantages included lower fat absorption, the possibility of direct packing and reduced frying temperatures (Santos and Hermann 1994).

5.4.3 Starch Arracacha starch was widely used for pastry in Colombia during the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, Hooker wrote: “The root [of arracacha] rasped and macerated in water, deposits a fecula, which is in very general use at Bogotá, as a light nourishment for the sick, in the same manner as the fecula of the Maranta arundinacea is in Jamaica” (Hooker 1831; see also epigraph in Section 5). Today, arracacha starch is sporadically extracted in Colombia, but this is no longer of commercial significance.

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