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more widely known. Inga species are dependable, they produce in abundance, and they provide sustenance in bad times. They are a source of snacks for their owners and cash for the enterprising. 4 They grow rapidly, are tolerant of diverse soils, and are resistant to diseases and fire. They are easy to establish, spread their shade quickly, and provide fruit for years.

Inga trees produce abundant root nodules, which fix nitrogen, and benefit the land by raising fertility levels. They can produce food without occupying the farmland used for food crops, because they can grow on sites neglected by agriculture.

Pacay is cultivated specifically for its fruits; the fruits of other Inga species in the Andes are only a by-product of trees whose main purpose is to shade plantations of coffee and cacao. Other common species in the Andes are I. edulis, I. vera, I. adenophylla, and I. densiflora. The fruits of I. densiflora are sold in markets and fruit stalls, especially in Colombia. So far, however, the others are more often used for shade, not food.

Pacay and other inga trees have important futures. They are multipurpose trees and are potentially valuable additions to gardens, orchards, fields, hedgerows, or wayside wastelands throughout most warm parts of the world. They also have outstanding prospects as urban trees for much of the tropics.5


The Andes. Although pacay pods are already widely consumed in rural areas of the Andes, there are still many possibilities for developing inga fruits as cash crops. One potential for expanding markets exists in cities, particularly among newly urbanized campesinos. As with other fruit crops, pacay lends itself to new entrepreneurial ventures, small-business enterprise, and economic development among the poorest levels of society.

Other Developing Areas. This delectable snack that comes in its own natural wrapper should become much better known in coming decades. Inga trees can promote self-reliance, and they have potential not just in Latin America but throughout the tropics. Some species are already grown in the West Indies, Hawaii, and East Africa, but

4 In Mexico, coffee-plantation workers can double their annual salary by selling the pods from the inga trees used to shade the coffee plants. In Central America, the seeds are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. In Mexico, at least, the seeds are roasted and sold outside theaters to moviegoers. Information from J. Roskoski.
5 If the pods are not eaten, however, during years of bumper crops of pods, the sidewalk stroller may have to wade through pods half-a-foot deep. This may make this species less than “outstanding.” Information from J. Roskoski.

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