Peruvian Ginseng, aka Maca, the Colourful Cruciferous Vegetable (including recipe: Maca & Tahini Smoothie)
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is also known as ‘Peruvian Ginseng’ for its similarity (in use) to Asiatic ginseng.
Maca is a cruciferous vegetable, so, is in the same plant family as broccoli, cabbage and kale. Like these green vegetables, maca is a nutrient-rich ‘Superfood’. Unlike with other family members, maca’s edible part is not green. Maca is available, however, in a range of colours.
Although the food part of the maca is referred to as the root, it is botanically known as the hypocotyl—the part beneath the stalks/leaves, and above the root. The colour of the hypocotyl varies between cultivars, with colours ranging from white to black. In practice, the colour of the maca powder from different colour-ways of the maca hypocotyl doesn’t much differ as it is the outer part only of the hypocotyl that shows colour variation.
Although some scientific studies of maca use one colour-way alone (commonly yellow, red or black), blends (of maca colour-ways) are commonly used and studied. Traditional uses for maca include for enhancing strength/energy, endurance, libido and fertility.
Use of maca powder remains popular globally. Although it can be cooked and consumed like a boiled potato, maca is seldom consumed fresh even in Peru. And, to protect its national interests in maca, the Peruvian government banned the export of the fresh plant or its seeds in 2003. Fortunately, maca powder is considered a superior product to fresh maca.
Look for organic gelatinized* maca powder for best quality.
*NOTE: gelatinized maca does NOT contain gelatine. See previous blog.
Why not try this simple smoothie recipe.
Blog text by Rose Holmes, Nutritionist, BSc, Dip.ION, PGCE, mBANT