The Llama, a symbol of the Andes and Peru!
Llamas and what they eat
Llamas are mammals, so they feed their young with milk. They usually weigh about 175 pounds and stand some 5 feet tall. They are basically herbivores, that is, they eat mainly plants. They are cud-chewers, which are animals that chew their food, swallow it, spit the food up and chew in again before finally digesting it.
When kept in captivity llamas eat mainly hay, grass and grain, although they also like having pieces of apple and vegetables, like carrots and broccoli. What a llama eats depends on the climate, their use and the pasture they have available.
Llamas have thick fur and long, strong hind legs, and they can run up to 40 m.p.h. They can also carry weights of up to 200 pounds, so they are used as pack animals. Females are used for their flesh, which tastes somewhat like mutton, and for their milk, which tastes somewhat like human milk. The meat of the males is tough and is not usually eaten. The wool is used for weaving textiles, and their skins are tanned for leather. Llama tallow is also used for making candles and their dung is also used for fuel by many South American people. The habitat of the llama is mostly on the mountains, and higher plateaus at altitudes of 10,000 feet or more.
Llamas do not hibernate but migrate up and down the mountains. In summer, when it is hot, they will move to the top of the mountain where it is cooler, while in winter, they will go down to the lower parts of the mountain where it is warmer.
Having talked about what llamas eat, now it’s time to talk about llama as food for us to consume! There is a well known dish in Peru called Olluquitos con Charqui and that is made with two ingredients: charqui, which is dried llama meat and Olluquitos, which is the diminutive of Olluco.
Charqui (charki) is dried and salted strips of meat, from beef, sheep, llama or alpaca. The meat is cut lengthways and pressed after salting, then air-dried, a method that has been used since olden times to preserve meat in the Andean regions. Locals take advantage of the cold, dry mountain air and the strong sun to cure meat this way.
Olluco, on the other hand, is one of the most widely grown root crops in the Andes and is second only to the potato. It is also known as papa lisa (smooth potato), and other regional names, and it is a plant grown mainly as a root vegetable, but also for its leaves. Papa lisa was originally used and discovered by the Incas.
It grows at over 3,000 mts in cool and humid climates in the Andean regions from Colombia to Bolivia, but also in Argentina and Chile and it is resistant to freezing temperatures.
Llama milk is lower in fat and salt and higher in phosphorus and calcium than cow or goat milk, but the problem is that llama milk is produced in very small quantities, so only baby llamas can benefit from it! It is possible to drink llama milk, but most female llamas do not have an excess amount of it, so they only have enough to feed their offspring and that is all.
Llamas are becoming more and more popular around the world to go trekking. One can’t ride on them, as they are not strong enough to carry people, with the exception of children perhaps, if they are trained, so you have to do the walking yourself!
When people go trekking they often like to include a picnic and llamas are be perfect for that. They can carry the food and drink, as well as the equipment, like folding chairs and tables, so you can enjoy your outing in comfort, without the need to carry big weights around.
A llama trek is a wonderful experience and ideal for outings with your family and friends. Llamas are fairly easy to look after, friendly and good with children too.
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