Maca--the 'Easy Superfood': Traditionally and Today
Maca is an easy way to ‘Superfood’ recipes.
If you don’t yet know maca, it’s time to learn about this wonderful nutritious vegetable native to Peru where it grows at altitudes of over 10,000 feet above sea level in the harsh terrain of the Peruvian Andes. The soil in the Andes is extremely rich in minerals and maca is considered a superfood due to its nutrient-rich profile.
The cultivation of maca (Lepidium meyenii) can be traced back thousands of years, being an integral part of the diet and commerce of the high Andes region of Peru. Maca was domesticated by the Incas, and primitive cultivars of maca have been found in archaeological sites dating back as far as 1600 B.C.
Maca is a cruciferous vegetable so is in the same plant family as nutrient-rich broccoli, cabbage and kale but it doesn’t taste like any of these; it is more commonly dried and consumed within porridges, soups, stews and teas. Maca powder has an aroma similar to butterscotch or caramel (although it doesn’t taste like either of these). Maca powder adds an earthy nutty taste to recipes and it partners well with oats, cacao and nuts.
Maca is naturally difficult to digest raw. Traditionally, this is addressed by boiling the dried roots (after 10-40 days drying, the roots can be stored); the dried roots are boiled in water or milk until soft then mashed into a porridge or made into a fermented drink. This removes the starch/carbohydrate and glucosinolate content and improves its digestibility. Some of the natural enzymes in raw maca are very slightly toxic and inhibit digestion and assimilation. Scientifically, this process of bioavailability has been addressed through gelatinization—an extrusion method of heating maca under pressure for a few seconds.
The gelatinization process used today yields a result close to that of the traditional preparation method. The naturally-occurring secondary metabolite constituents (isothiocyanates, amines, amides and sterols) are not harmed by traditional cooking or gelatinization, which also preserves much of the vitamin content and all of the mineral content. Gelatinization also removes moisture content, so results in a more concentrated and potent form of maca. Note that although the process is known as ‘gelatinization’, no ‘gelatine’ is involved in this process.
Choose organic gelatinized maca powder for best quality.
Why not try this recipe:
Blog text by Rose Holmes, Nutritionist, BSc, Dip.ION, PGCE, mBANT