One of the newest plant-based alternatives comes from the mountains of Peru — the Tara tree/shrub (Cesalpina spinosa). 

This small, thorny leguminous plant produces pea-style pods containing seeds. Tara gum or Peruvian carob, as it is known, is transformed into usable protein by finely grinding these seeds into powder, which can range from white to yellowish in color. 

Tara exhibits a slightly nutty flavor with a smooth texture. It is soluble in hot water and partially soluble in cold water. That makes it great to use in the baking and pasta-making industries and for use in a variety of confections, bars and similar snack foods. It also can be used as a vegetable-based meat substitutes because it “browns” nicely when heated. In addition it can be used in protein drinks and as a raw ingredient in isolated protein and amino acid extracts. 

Tara contains 16 amino acids, including all nine (or eight, depending upon your school of thought) of the essential amino acids. It’s also gluten-free; has no additives or preservatives; is non-GMO, vegan and kosher; is a source of dietary fiber; contains antioxidants and glucosilonates and is not a tree nut or derivative.

But its uses go beyond food. The Incas of Peru discovered a wide variety of uses for Tara that the local indigenous communities still employ today. Some of these uses include treating skin irritations and throat aches, as well as producing black dye for clothing and leather. 

Westec Inc., a long-established agricultural seed company, based in Reno, Nevada, has recently begun importing Tara from a respected source in Peru. This responsibly- and sustainably-grown Tara is available as either conventional or certified-organic. 

For further information and samples, contact Westec, Inc. directly.