|Chacra planted with rice and plantains adjacent to mature forest|
Yuca is a staple crop for small swidden agriculture and a primary source of carbohydrate in the Amazon. All yuca roots contain a poisonous cyanogenic glycoside. The two kinds of yuca — dulce, sweet, and brava, bitter — differ in how this chemical is distributed. Sweet yuca can be eaten simply by peeling off the bark and boiling the root. In bitter yuca the poison is spread throughout the root, and must be extracted before consumption; this is done by peeling and grating the root, and then squeezing out the poisonous juice in a long mesh sleeve that serves as a yuca press. The two varieties are not clearly different in shape or color, so they can be difficult for the unsophisticated to tell apart. Often it is simply a matter of knowing which type was planted; but, in addition, sweet yuca has two easily removable skins, a thinner outer one and a thicker inner one, while bitter yuca has a single skin which is difficult to remove.
|Yuca, manioc, cassava (Manihot esculenta)|
|Plátano, plantain (Musa paradisiaca)|
Shamans not infrequently plant their own sacred and healing plants, primarily ayahuasca, chacruna, toé, and mapacho. Don Rómulo Magin, for example, had a large bush of sameruca growing in his front yard, which he would use to prepare his ayahuasca drink. Almost all the shamans in Colombia use ayahuasca vines that are deliberately planted for their use in healing ceremonies.
|Culebra borrachero (Methysticodendron amesianum)|
A chacra is a cleared space, limpia, clean, just like the ubiquitous soccer field or the wide clear path leading into the village from the riverbank — plantless, the result of human action, nonjungle. On the other hand, the monte is, to the mestizo, the place of least human cultural interference, the place of jungle spirits and wild Indians. They are wild because they live away from the rivers and out of contact with riverine commerce, in the center of the jungle; they are naked and they eat their food raw and without salt. In short, they live with a minimum of cultural mediation between the jungle and themselves. Indeed, one regional dictionary defines the word monte as despoblado, unpopulated, deserted, as if there was no one in the jungle at all.