Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

ulluco Ullucus tuberosus, a minor root crop cultivated in the high Andes region of S. America, ranging from Colombia to N. Argentina. Although hardy and unaffected by high altitudes, it is not suitable for the far south or north, being sensitive to the length of the day; but it may be possible to develop cultivars which do not have this handicap. Where ulluco is cultivated it is an important part of the diet, sometimes second only to the potato, sometimes third after oca.

The excellent description in Lost Crops of the Incas (National Research Council, 1989) reads thus:

One of the most striking foods in the markets, its tubers are so brightly colored—yellow, pink, red, purple, even candy striped—and their waxy skins are so shiny that they seem like botanical jewels or plastic fakes. Many are shaped like small potatoes but others are curiously long and curved like crooked sausages. (One of the bent types, splashed with maroon streaks, is known as ‘Christ’s knee’. A small, pink, curled variety is called ‘shrimp of the earth’.) Their skin is thin and soft and needs no peeling before eating. The white to lemon-yellow flesh has a smooth, silky texture with a nutty taste. Some types are gummy when raw, but in cooking, this characteristic is reduced or lost. Indeed, a major appeal of ulluco is its crisp texture, which remains even when cooked.