The sad news about this week’s ingredient is that you probably won’t get to taste it outside Chile. Oh no, readers groan. Another travel story. Stay with me! Rica rica is such a cool little plant and worth knowing about, just because it exists.
Rica rica, also known as acantholippia deserticola lives only in the Andes highlands north of Chile and into Bolivia, and is prevalent in the Atacama Desert. The Atacama is a high altitude desert and either the driest place on earth or close to it. It depends on your definition of ‘dry’ apparently. Anyway, the Atacama is pretty dry, evidenced by the disappearance of approximately 20 litres of moisturising cream into my skin on a daily basis during my visit 🙂
Back to the rica rica: it is one of only a handful of plants that survives in the Atacama. It is a member of the same family as lemon verbena, and has a similar thyme-y, minty, piquant taste. And it is SO fragrant. When you squish the leaves between your fingers and inhale: aah. Bliss.
It is known to treat an upset stomach as well as problems of the heart, kidneys, altitude sickness and circulation of the blood. But my favourite medicinal use of rica rica is in a Pisco Sour, the go-to drink of both Chile and Peru*.
Rica rica makes the BEST Pisco Sour. Unfortunately this little ingredient is not available to purchase anywhere that I can find and I am KICKING myself that I didn’t purloin a packet or two while I was there.
So not much in the way of recipes or suggested uses for this one… I just love it’s hardy nature, it’s pluck, in surviving such a harsh environment.
The fun fact.
* There is some crazy ‘who owns Pisco’ stuff going on between Chile and Peru to the extent that, when you enter Peru the customs form asks you specifically if you are carrying any liquor labelled ‘pisco’ that was not made in Peru. Haha. I love that.