Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

Page 181


On the face of it, it is surprising that tarwi (Lupinus mutabilis) has not been developed as an international crop. Its seeds contain more than 40 percent protein—as much as or more than peas, beans, soybeans, and peanuts—the world's premier protein crops. In addition, its seeds contain almost 20 percent oil—as much as soybeans and several other oilseed crops. Tarwi1 thus would appear to be a ready source of protein for food and feed as well as a good source of vegetable oil for cooking, margarine, and other processed food products.

One of the most beautiful food crops, tarwi (pronounced tar-wee) could also qualify as an ornamental. Its brilliant blue blossoms bespangle the upland fields of the Indians of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Indeed, corn, potato, quinoa, and tarwi together form the basis of the highland Indian's diet. In Cuzco, the former Inca capital, baskets of the usually bone-white tarwi seeds are a customary sight in the markets. The seeds are most often served in soups.

Tarwi seeds are outstandingly nutritious. The protein they contain is rich in lysine, the nutritionally vital amino acid. Mixing tarwi and cereals makes a food that, in its balance of amino acids, is almost ideal for humans. With its outstanding composition, tarwi might become another “soybean” in importance.2 Because of this possibility, researchers in countries as far-flung as Peru, Chile, Mexico, England, the Soviet Union, Poland, East and West Germany, South Africa, and Australia have initiated tarwi research.

This “pioneer” species can be cultivated on marginal soils. Its strong taproot loosens soil and (because it is a legume) its surface roots collect nitrogen from the air. Both of these abilities benefit the land in which it is grown.

1 Also widely known as “chocho.” At a 1986 conference of the International Lupin Association, the name “Andean lupin” was proposed for international use.
2 This is not as improbable as it seems. Sixty years ago the soybean was hardly known outside Asia; today it is America's third largest crop and is a vital part of the economies of Brazil and several other non-Asian nations. Like tarwi it requires processing to rid its seeds of adverse components.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement