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Olluco (Ruba, Melloco) – Properties, Benefits, Origin, Types, Characteristics

February 3, 2023
Olluco (Ruba, Melloco) - Properties & Benefits

Find out below what ollucos are, their types and characteristics, properties, healthy benefits, the best way to consume them, and other curious facts about this tuber.

What is the olluco?

Olluco is an edible root tuber native to the Andes. Its appearance is similar to that of a small potato, but in this case, with different colors. After the potato, it is one of the most consumed tubers in the areas where it is grown. However, it is almost unknown outside the Andean region.

So far, there is knowledge of its cultivation in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela. Depending on the place, the olluco is also known as smooth potato, ulluco, ruba, chugua, sweet cucumber, and melloco; its scientific name is Ullucus tuberosus.

What is the olluco

Characteristics and data of interest

  • Ollucos can be of various colors, from pale/bright yellow to orange, pink, and red.
  • Olluco plants, which reach 35-40 cm in height, produce edible leaves approximately 90 cm long.
  • Each plant produces a series of the small, medium, or large tubers, ranging from 1/2 inch (similar to a grape) to 3 inches (larger than baking potatoes).
  • Olluco has an earthy flavor, similar to beets but with a firmer texture. This taste is due to its geosmin content (an organic compound with an earthy flavor and aroma present in beets and responsible for the smell produced in the air when it rains).
  • Olluco is a popular crop in its native region. Still, it is rarely cultivated outside the Andes, except New Zealand, where it has been cultivated for approximately 20 years and is known as “gems of the earth.

Types of olluco

There are more than 70 different varieties of olluco, among which are:

  • Ravelo Lisa, vibrant green
  • Flea bite, mottled and red in color
  • Round violet
  • Chugua Roja
  • Colombian Olluco, red in color and elongated in appearance(Find out below what ollucos Colombia are, what their types are, and their cultivation).
  • Long yellow Olluco
  • Spotted white Olluco
  • Cusco, orange with pink spots

Nutritional properties of olluco

Nutritional properties of olluco

Olluco is a good source of carbohydrates, although it contributes 20% fewer calories per serving than potato. It is rich in water, vitamin C, protein, fiber, minerals, among other essential nutrients.

The colors of ulluco result from high concentrations of betalain, a pigment that is also found in beets and has antioxidant activity. Some of the types of betalains present in olluco have not been found in any other edible plant.

Nutritional information for a 100g serving:

  • Calories: 62
  • Fat: 0.1 g
  • Sodio: 12 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 16 g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 1.12g
  • Water: 83.7%

Vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin A: 3,77 mg
  • Vitamin C: 11,5 mg
  • Niacina: 0.20 mg
  • B1: 0,05 mg
  • B2: 0,03 mg
  • Calcium: 3 mg
  • Iron: 1.1 mg
  • Potassium: 274 mg
  • Phosphorus: 28 mg

What is olluco for? Benefits and uses

What is olluco for Benefits and uses

Being a nutritious tuber, olluco provides several health benefits, for example:

  • Helps protect the skin. Olluco has healing properties that have been exploited by the natives of the Andes for centuries to treat acne, stretch marks, chickenpox, and burns. The contribution of B vitamins in olluco promotes good skin, hair, and nail health, preventing the appearance of wrinkles or premature aging. It is also widely used to remove blemishes on the skin. The traditional way to achieve these benefits is to put olluco water in a spray bottle (50% water and 50% olluco juice), add the juice of a lemon, and apply it every night on the face. The result is smooth, healthy skin free of blemishes or scars.
  • It is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. The juice of this tuber is rich in mineral salts that help expel toxins from the body, relieving inflammation of the muscles and joints. It is used as a natural treatment for rheumatism, erysipelas, and bronchial infections. It also helps to calm constant coughs, especially when consumed in the form of an infusion (olluco leaves and honey); You should boil a cup of water with some olluco leaves, add a little honey and several drops of lemon, let it cool until warm and drink the infusion immediately.
  • It helps to lose weight. Olluco has relatively few calories and is mostly made up of water (85%). Hence it is an excellent source of carbohydrates when you want to lose weight.
  • It is a muscle relaxant. Since it has relaxing properties, this tuber has been used for centuries to relieve labor pain in women about to give birth.
  • It has a digestive effect. The leaves of this tuber have traditionally been used, as a food or in the form of an infusion, to relieve indigestion, constipation, and stomach pain.
  • Helps prevent cancer. Ollucos are especially rich in betalain, an antioxidant rarely found in other foods. Science has shown that antioxidants help prevent and fight cancer thanks to their destructive effect on the free radicals that cause it.1
  • It has veterinary uses. In the Andean regions, olluco juice alleviates digestive problems in animals, including dogs and cats.

How to consume olluco?

The olluco does not need to be peeled; the incredible colors of its skin add a special touch to any dish. It is a basic tuber in the diet of several Andean regions, where it is consumed in a similar way to potatoes, in soups and stews. The leaves of the olluco plant are also edible; they look very similar to spinach when cooked.

Small ollucos can be eaten raw, especially when included as an ingredient in salads.

Olluco with meat recipe:

Frequent questions

Does the olluco get fat?

Being an average food in terms of the number of calories per serving and rich in water (81% water), it is a good alternative for those who want to control or lose weight; however, it is not recommended to eat it excessively. When consumed in moderation, olluco is not fattening.

How to store the olluco?

Olluco tubers can stay fresh for almost a year when stored in a cool, dark place at room temperature. Sometimes the Andean inhabitants freeze and dry these roots to turn them into a long-lasting product known as llingli. Then it is ground to obtain a kind of flour and make different dishes.

When ollucos are exposed to sunlight, their skin may turn green.

What is the origin of the olluco?

Ollucos have their origin in the high plains of the Peruvian Andes, where they have been cultivated since pre-Columbian times. Along with potatoes and corn, this tuber was a staple food for the Inca culture.

What is the olluco plant like?

The olluco plant can grow up to 3 feet (91 cm) wide and usually reaches a maximum height of 15 inches (38 cm) before spreading. Its size is similar to that of the potato plant.

The leaves and stems are succulent. The stems vary in color from green to red and have an angular cross-section that often shows a different coloration at the edges. The leaves, edible, can have an approximate extension of 90 cm.

Each plant produces small, medium, and large tubers, ranging from 1/2 inch (like grapes) to 3 inches (larger than baking potatoes).

How is the olluco grown?

Ollucos are grown in the same way as potatoes. Only whole or cut tubers need to be planted in the spring to be harvested in the fall or early winter.

What does olluco taste like?

Olluco has an earthy flavor, described as “the combination of a potato and a beet.” However, its texture is firmer.

What other names does it have?

The olluco is also known as:  Ullucus tuberosus (scientific name), ulluku (in Quechua), ulluma (Aymara), smooth potato, chugua, ground shrimp, olluma, melloco and ruba (in Ecuador), tiquiño, mucuchi, michuri ( in Venezuela), ruhua or chigua (in Argentina).



My name is Louise Hammond, and I am the creator of this website, a place to find information about tubers, bulbs and medicinal roots. In I show the properties, benefits, characteristics, photos and images, ways of growing and how to make delicious meals from starchy vegetables.