Sauco Heals and Pleases Cuzco
By Hebert Edgardo Huamani Jara (translated by David Knowlton)
The Sauco tree is filled with life, its leaves dance in each breeze as if filled with vitality and it produces small purple fruit that are little balls of energy. They grow like grapes in bunches. Not only is that fruit used to make jams, but the plant’s green leaves also concentrate its force to heal and nourish. Sauco produces food and medicine and has been used by people since ancient times.
Widespread throughout the world, sauco (sambucus species)–or elderberry as it is often called in English — is found through out Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Though it is generally thought that the Spanish brought the sauco to Cuzco, and other parts of America, there is a native species here, the sambucus peruviana that has a unique characteristic. Its fruit is edible right off the tree without needing other preparations.
But though the fruit is delicious and makes a jam used in many Cuzco restaurants and homes with little, tartly sweet balls in a sweet and tangy dark purple jelly, the sauco has curing properties. To obtain this medicinal potential people use the bark, flowers, as well as the fruit. They are known to be good for combating issues like the flu, bronchial problems, asthma, and other respiratoral concerns.
The leaves of this marvelous tree are boiled and then consumed as a filtered tea without sugar. They are very good for making disappear the dark spots that appear on many people’s faces, even when they are fully developed.
The leaves are also used in the form of a cream, when ground. They have antiseptic properties, they say. To a somewhat lesser degree they are useful to help surface wounds heal, what in Spanish they call cicatrizantes.
The flowers of this tree are known for their many medicinal properties. They are used to treat all kinds of problems with the respiratory system, such as bronchitis and a cough. The flowers also find use in the treatment of fever.
In some of Cuzco’s homes you can see how the people grow sauco trees in their gardens to produce fruit and leaves. The fruit has a sweet and sour flavor that grabs you. It is used to flavor yoghurt. jams, syrups and others.
But in the popular fairs carried out on weekends in the different plazas of Cuzco, this fruit is always present year round. It is a constant in this vibrant city through its natural yoghurts, jams, and syrups made artisanally
People go to these fairs as something to do on the weekend and find themselves satisfied from the variety of food offered. There one can always enjoy a colorful range of natural products. And the sauco is never lacking in the many jars and containers in which it is sold.
In the Plaza San Francisco, the Ecoferia (Eco Fair) was born. It brings together all the natural products from our region to display them under tents that rise every two weeks where merchants can offer their products with a smile. They wear the special aprons of the Eco Fair. Sauco is always among their offerings.
The fruit is also found in the popular markets and in Cuzco’s various supermarkets–such as Mega, Orion, La Canasta, etc. In either place you can buy these products that are so good for your health. Sauco is a staple in Cuzco, both for its high nutritional value and because of its value in fighting the respiratory problems that often afflict our high-altitude population.
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