The tropical climate and mountainous terrain that characterizes Colombia makes growing a diversity of crops both possible and necessary. The hot lowlands provide rice, yuca, name (a true yam) and a wide variety of fruits. The cool highlands produce potatoes, arracacha, fresh vegetables, peas, cargamanto beans and others. Animal protein is mostly from beef, pork, chicken and fish. Some of the foods that form the basic diet may not be familiar to people from other lands. This page is intended to introduce some of the possibly less familiar foods.
Yuca is often know as cassava root in other areas. The common variety here is “sweet cassava” which does not have the high hydrocyanic acid content of the “bitter cassava” and does not require special preparation. It is a root crop rich in carbohydrates. While used much as is the potato it has a richer flavor and firmer texture when cooked. It is a key component of dishes such a sancocho (basically a stew) and some soups. It also is served deep fried and in a garlic sauce.
While there are several beans grown in Colombia, the favorite in the Medellin area is the cargamanto. It is a cranberry bean and is generally grown in the highlands. According to Wikipedia the cranberry bean originate in Colombia. It is larger than the familiar pinto bean and in my humble opinion tastes much better. Few home cooked meal in Antioquia are not accompanied by cargamantos. The are sold as dry beans and also are available as fresh shelly beans just about every where.
Arracacha is a root vegetable in the celery family. It has a mild, nutty flavor which contributes well to country style soups. This is an indigenous highland crop which was used by the pre-Hispanic people of the area. When you have an opportunity I highly recommend arracacha.