(Ullucus tuberosus – Family Basellaceae)
(Boussingaultia cordifolia – Family Basellaceae)
Both are from the family which contains only a few genera and species native to Asia and the tropics of America.
All the plants of this family are herbaceous with a creeping or climbing habit and with fleshy stalks and leaves. Only the species of three genera are cultivated as vegetables. Two are Ulluco and Madeira vine and the third is Malabar spinach. Madeira vine yields the basell potato, while the leaves can be eaten like spinach and similarly to its relative, the Malabar spinach. This plant has become naturalized in Southern and Southeastern Europe.
Ulluco is a tuber similar to a potato and native to the Andes, ranging from Colombia to northern Argentina. It is consumed boiled or dried, and the leaves are sometimes eaten as a vegetable.
Although hardy and unaffected by high altitudes, it is not suited to the far north or southern climates as it is sensitive to the length of the day.
Second only to the potato, ulluco is an important part of the local diet. The tubers are brightly coloured, ranging from yellow to pink, red, purple and even candy-striped.
Their waxy skins are so shiny that they almost glisten and, strangely, need no peeling before being eaten.
The white to lemon-yellow flesh has a smooth, silky texture with a nutty flavour.
Some types are gummy when raw, but this disappears after cooking. The major appeal of the ulluco is its crisp texture which, like the jicama, remains so even when cooked.
Ulluco may be freeze-dried to make llingli, a long-keeping product like the chuño made from the potato.
Ulluco is also canned for export. Because of their high water content, they are not suitable for frying or baking; but they can be cooked in many other ways like a potato. In the pickled form, they are added to hot sauces.