Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere


Lupinus mutabilis

By Jeremy Trombley

The tarwi is closely related to the Old World species known as the Lupine which is native to Southern Europe. However, the tarwi originated in the Peruvian Andes. Both the tarwi and the lupine are difficult foods. In fact, it is a wonder that they were domesticated at all since they are highly toxic when raw. The seeds require a thorough processing before they can be safely consumed. They have to be soaked for several days with regular changes of water – soaking in a tub with constant running water is a common practice. They must then be soaked in brine, and even then they never become soft.

After processing, the seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack or, in Peru and Bolivia, ground into a flour which is used to make breads and noodles.

The remarkable thing about the tarwi and lupines is that they are extremely nutritious. They contain about 25% unsaturated fat, and 40% protein – the highest of any of the bean species, and comparable to the protein content of animal meat. The flour described above is claimed to have upwards of 50% protein content.

Most people recognize lupines as a flower rather than as a food. Indeed, they have been grown ornamentally in Europe for many centuries. Like the runner beans, this makes the lupine and the tarwi an excellent candidate for edible landscaping, assuming one has the time to perform the necessary processing.


From the Andes; First Potato, Then Quinoa; Now Tarwi?

Albala, Ken. Beans: A History. New York: Berg Publishers, 2007.

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food 2nd Ed. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.