Black Maca, Mashua, and the Richness of Andean Tubers

For thousands of years, the ancient Incan empire developed a strong, resilient agriculture system that thrived even in the tough climate of the highlands of the Andes Mountains. One of the principles of their agricultural development was the diversification of different species that were well adapted to the local climatic conditions. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN considers the Andes region to be one of the centers in the world for food diversity.

Tubers made up an essential part of the Incan diet, with well over 3,000 types of different tubers cultivated throughout their territory. One of the most commonly cultivated and eaten of these tubers was the maca root which wasn´t discovered by westerners until the mid-1800´s. While the medicinal and nutritional properties of the maca root were well known by people throughout the Andes region for thousands of years, only recently have people in industrialized societ8ies begun to discover the true benefits of this magical plant.

Similarly, mashua is another of the most commonly cultivated tubers in the Andes. This long, white, carrot-like root is a relative of the edible flower nasturtium. The quick vegetative growth above ground mimics the rapid growth of these peppery-flavored tubers that are both healthy and delicious.

Both maca and mashua can be easily grown in several different climate zones and offer several health-related benefits.

What is Black Maca?

Black Maca is known as Lepidium meyenii in Latin. It is a tuber that was originally grown in the highlands of the Andes Mountain in Peru, principally near the Lake Junin region. While this crop was only adapted to the cooler mountainous regions, it was traded extensively throughout the ancient Incan Empire with the highlands indigenous peoples trading black maca root for other lowland stale crops such as corn and quinoa.

For thousands of generations, then, the Andean peoples have known of the numerous health benefits associated with the black maca plant. Similar in size to a large radish or small turnip, this root vegetable also loosely resembles a type of white carrot. The small green leaves never grow more than 20 cm of the ground, making this a unique plant in that the majority of the growth occurs underground.

The actual roots of the maca plant, which are the edible part of the plant, vary in size and shape and can be spherical, rectangular and even triangular. Furthermore, the color of the root can range from a gold or cream color to darker hues of reds, purples, and blacks. Black maca is by far the most common and the most recognized by the outside world for its health benefits.

Photo Credit: cdn1.bigcommerce.com

What is Mashua?

Mashua, or Tropaeolum tuberosum in Latin, is a perennial tuber that grows throughout the year in places without severe frosts. The abundant tubers have a rich, peppery flavor and can be cooked several different ways. Furthermore, this tuber is known as a natural repellant and can be combined with other crops to deter insects, nematodes, and others. The vegetative growth above ground offers unique climbing vines and beautiful flowers that are often grown for ornamental purposes.

While mashua roots are most often white in color, you can also find Mashua roots that are yellow, red, and other colors.

Photo Credit: goodlifepermaculture.com.au

Health Benefits of Black Maca and Mashua

Black Maca is high in Protein and Essential Vitamins

While many people take black maca as a supplement for its health properties that we will explore below, it is actually one of the most overall nutritious foods on the market. One ounce of black maca will give you over 130% of your vitamin C, 4 grams of protein, and 85% of your daily copper intake. It is also a good source of other essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium, and manganese.

Black Maca is a Libido Enhancer

Daily consumption of black maca has also been proven to boost sexual desire in both men and women. The enhanced fertility that supposedly comes with consuming black maca is most likely due to the increased libido that comes with this unique plant. One recent study confirmed that black maca root does improve the sex drive in healthy, middle-aged men.

Black Maca Increases Endurance

Many professional athletes, bodybuilders, and weightlifters have recently begun taking black maca supplements because of the increased endurance that it offers during extreme physical activity. Swimmers especially have found that regular consumption of black maca allows them to go longer and farther during training.

Black Maca Reduces Prostate Size

The prostate gland causes all sorts of problems in aging men. From difficulty with urinating to prostate cancer, many men fear the problems that come with aging. Regular consumption of black maca might very well help to reduce the size of the prostate gland in men. Since larger prostate glands can cause problems passing urine and potentially lead to cancer, black maca consumption is encouraged in aging men, not to mention that it can also help induce sexual desire.

Mashua has Diuretic Properties

If you are looking for a quality natural diuretic to add to your diet, mashua is known to help get rid of excess fluids in the body. While most natural diuretics are taken as a tea, this one can be eaten.

Mashua is a Natural Lice Killer

Everyone deals with lice at some time during their life. Instead of buying chemical-laden shampoos to kill off the lice running around your head, the peppery flavor of mashua is known to kill and repel lice. You can make a simple powder from dried mashua root to apply to your hair or boil the mashua root to make an extract that you then use to wash your hair.

Both mashua and maca roots are unique tubers that offer several advantages both to the ecological resiliency of your piece of land and to your overall health and wellbeing.

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6 thoughts on “Black Maca, Mashua, and the Richness of Andean Tubers

  1. will these plants grow in northern michigan, where we get killing frosts in late may and mid september? how long is the typically required growing season for these plants? thanks.

  2. Great article.
    Are Mashua and Maca root available anyway in Australia to buy?
    I’ve looked and can’t find them. I live in sth east QLD and wish to grow them here.
    Cheers

  3. Very good article! I was told, 10,000 feet is where maca thrive. Mashua is a relative of the nasturtium. It was domesticated for the leaves and roots. I don’t know how eatable the leaves are, but nasturtium leaves make an excellent salad and the small, unripe seeds are pickled for imitation capers. Like all Native American crops, women owned and developed them. they need to be functional and pretty. Maca, BTW, is used as a pasture plant on the Puna, where little else will grow. Where people plant it, of course, it’s part of a field and any fertilizer is added long before it matures (about one year). America is so backwards about native plants. Native Americans still harvest honey mesquite, and the Tohono make a killing selling the flour as a gourmet item, while the USDA curses it.

  4. Nice article, but you might want to amend the first line. The Inca Empire only existed for around 140 years, and was one of the shortest reigning empires to have existed in the Andes. It is ironic then that they take so much credit for Andean history.

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