Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza)

Arracacha is from the same family as celery and carrot. The three main varieties, with their distinctively yellow-, white-, and purple-colored roots, are often intercropped with maize, beans, and coffee.

Arracacha produces high returns on investment, and is a high-value cash crop for poor farmers.

With a dense flesh that is richer in texture and taste than potato, the root can be roasted or boiled and used as an accompaniment to flavor a range of dishes from soups to desserts. Young stems are used in salad or as a cooked vegetable, and the leaves are often fed to livestock. The small size of Arracahca’s starch grains make it easy to digest, so it is good pureed or in a soup for babies, the elderly, or people with disabilities. The processed roots are used as a thickener for baby food formula and instant soups.

The root’s short shelf life means that it must reach consumers within a week of harvest, and the plant can be susceptible to viruses.

Arracacha is an important food in the Andes, but has made a greater impact in Brazil, where it has been cultivated for some 100 years and provides income to thousands of farm families as a major crop. Brazilian crop improvement programs have succeeded in developing varieties that grow in seven months, which could benefit other armers in the high Andes.