UNAM explains why you should not buy them

Enjoy a delicious rosca de reyes this January 6, but do it without acitrón. The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) encourages you to avoid buying dishes that use this traditional sweet.

Why not buy roscas de reyes with acitrón?

One of the The main sweets that usually decorate the roscas de reyes is the acitrón, which is made with the Echinocactus plantyacantus, better known as biznaga donkey, as well as with other species of biznagas endemic to Mexico, and according to the UNAM they are in danger of extinction.

Photo: Uno TV.
  • It is known by the name of biznaga to different species of cacti with globular or barrel.

The Echinocactus They are found in arid zones, distributed mainly in a corridor that goes from Coahuila to Oaxaca, and they are in Mexico under the category of “Special Protection” of the NOM-059- SEMARNAT-2010 norm and the surveillance of the Federal Attorney for Protection to the Environment (Profepa). Therefore, its extraction is considered illegal.

These cacti they can take between 14 and 40 years to grow only 40 cm. In the case of giant biznagas over a meter high, it usually takes more than 200 years to reach that size.

Photo: Uno TV.

It is even possible to find specimens that exceed two meters in height with an estimated age of between five and six hundred years.

For the biznagas to reach an adult stage that can be used to make sweet acitrón it takes many years, so that its production scheme would not be profitable for any farmer, says the UNAM.

According to the maximum house of studies of Mexico, consumption patterns do not favor the conservation of the biznaga, like many other species. At present there are no estimates that indicate how much acitron is consumed annually; therefore, to know for sure how many biznagas are sacrificed annually for the national gastronomy, It is uncertain.

Why are biznagas important?

The biznagas with which the rosca de reyes acitrón is made offer benefits to nature, because their roots retain rainwater, slow down soil erosion and are a source of nectar for pollinators such as bees and bats.

Photo: Uno TV.

What ingredients to use instead of acitron?

UNAM suggests replace the acitrón with sweet potato, papaya and chilacayote based sweets, which resemble the acitron.

Photo: Uno TV.

Other popular ingredient used in roscas de reyes is jelly or fruit paste, which have bright colors and give a pleasant flavor to the palate.

Photo: Uno TV.

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