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Arracacha

Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza) is botanically related to carrots and celery, and it incorporates qualities of both. Below ground it produces mostly smooth-skinned roots that resemble white carrots. Above ground it produces green, sometimes purple-streaked stems that are boiled or eaten raw like celery.

At present, arracacha is known only in South America and a few parts of Central America and the Caribbean. However, like its famous relatives, it could become a familiar crop throughout much of the world.

Arracacha (pronounced ar-a-catch-a) is rich in flavors and is one of the tastiest foods to be found anywhere.1 Native to the Andean highlands from Venezuela to Bolivia, it is often grown instead of potato because—although it takes longer to mature than modern potato cultivars—it is produced at only half the cost. Nonetheless, it was so overlooked in colonial times that it wasn't given a scientific name until 300 years after the Spanish Conquest.

Today arracacha is almost as little known scientifically as it was at the time of Pizarro, but it is eaten in most Latin American countries as far north as Costa Rica. Usually it is grown only in small gardens for local use. However, the roots are sold in considerable quantities in the larger cities of Colombia and the rural markets of northern Peru. It is also found in Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Recently, arracacha has gained popularity in southern Brazil and has become an established vegetable in the city markets.2 It is grown in big fields using modern techniques. While characteristic of relatively high elevations in the Andes, the plant is being produced in Brazil at


1 The late David Fairchild, dean of United States plant explorers before World War II, considered it “much superior to carrots.” The great Soviet plant explorer, S.M. Bukasov, said, “There's nothing more tasty in the world than arracacha.” Thousands of inhabitants of the Andes, as well as many visitors, agree.
2 The species was introduced into Brazil at the beginning of this century, and in recent years its cultivation has become a big industry. More than 10,000 hectares are grown in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Minas Gerais, and Santa Catarina. It is usually known as mandioquinha salsa. Information from A.C.W. Zanin.


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