The rainy season is ending in Cuzco, taking with it the foods of the wet season. One of those foods is a small globule that grows close to springs, pools, and rivers in Cuzco. Called lluchucha, it is an edible bacteria known as nostoc commune to scientists. While most eaten in China, llullucha is part of our ancestral heritage in Cuzco and we love it. We eat it in different dishes, such as in soups, part of main courses, and in salads.
As you can see, llullucha is important in Cuzco’s native gastronomy. Some important dishes to which it is added include the segundo de zapallo, or main dish of zapallo squash. It is added to the stew to give it a nutritious touch. It also makes its way into the segundo de tarwi, or the tarwi llupine as a main dish. Llullucha adds to the dish made of whole tarwi beans rather than to the one made from ground tarwi.
“When the llulluchas are added this dish becomes truly delicious” said our casera, market vendor, Valentina. She sells fruit vegetables in the San Blas market. She added that llullucha also goes into the main dish of calabaza (pumpkin), the lisa soup, and it is especially consumed in holy week.
Lllullucha, which is a colony of edible bacteria, grows in large quantities in wet lands during the rainy season, from December through March and even like this year April. Once the frost and drought begin to assail the high lands llullucha disappears until the next year.
Valentina said she gets her llullucha from the mountains of Pisaq. They rise above the Sacred Valley. People pick them in the high wetlands and bring them to her to sell in the market. She offers the llullucha in small mounds, along with other vegetables used in Cuzco’s cooking. “The llullucha has lots of iodine”, she said, “ just like jaucha”, Cuzco’s wild turnip greens. Llullucha is sold in season in all of Cuzco’s markets.
Although the rains are ending we can still find llullucha in small quantities within the markets of the city. Thanks to our “mothers” as we call the indigenous women who come to sell their produce every day, we can enjoy this unusual food.
Dishes that include llullucha are almost never found in Cuzco´s restaurants. They are made in its homes. Furthermore, with increasing modernity, people are forgetting about traditional foods like llullucha. Nevertheless, the market women include it in the long list of ingredients they offer every day, when it is available.