Maca is scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii. It is a herbaceous plant with a two-year life cycle. Maca is a member of the Cruciferae or Brassicaceae family.
Turnips and radishes are some of the plants that are closely related to maca. The crop is indigenous to Peru’s Andes Mountains. It is grown for culinary and medicinal reasons in Peru’s highlands.
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The maca plant has a fleshy hypocotyledonous stem that joins a taproot. It has a growth habit, dimensions, and size nearly identical to turnips and radishes. It has tiny, frilly leaves. They bloom at the earth’s surface and reach a maximum height of 4.7 to 7.9 inches.
The sprout becomes a rosette, with new leaves growing continually from the center to replace dead outer leaves. Maca is a flowering plant with self-pollinating blooms. It produces small capsule-shaped fruits with two tiny reddish-grey ovoid seeds in each one. These seeds sprout into a plant.
Maca is the only planet in the Lepidium genus with fleshy hypocotyl and a taproot fused. The root comes in various shapes and sizes, and local farmers utilize the color of the root to distinguish between the four plant types.
Depending on the number of anthocyanins in the plant, the hues can be cream-yellow, purple, half-purple, or black. Because of their size and increased sweetness, cream-colored cultivars are the most extensively farmed in Peru.
Hypocotyls come in various colors, including red, cream, gold, blue, purple, green, or black. All of these kinds are thought to be genetically distinct.
Maca is one of the most resistant crops. Its natural environment is located between 11 and 12 degrees south latitude, with high altitude zones ranging from 12,500 to 14,400 feet above sea level.
It is mainly grown in Peru, a few areas of Brazil, and at high altitudes in Bolivia’s Andes. When the rainy season begins in October, farmers spread the seeds. It takes a month for seedlings to emerge.
The crop enters the blooming stage in May or June, and the top section of the taproot and lower part of the hypocotyl have expanded in size.
After another 260 to 280 days, the hypocotyl is ready to harvest. If harvesting does not occur after this time, the crop will fall into hibernation for two to three months before forming a generative shoot. Seeds form on the stalk and require five months to mature.
The root of Lepidium meyenii offers a variety of medicinal and nutritional properties, as well as economic applications.
One way it is prepared in Peru is to roast maca in an earthen oven known as huatia. The roots may also be mashed and cooked to make a sweet, thick liquid that can be dried and combined with milk to make porridge.
The roots of the maca plant are processed to make flour for cakes, pieces of bread, and pancakes. This flour is processed and exported by supplement manufacturers in Peru and Bolivia.
Maca is also used in creating beer, jams, soups, and empanadas, and its leaves are occasionally fried or used in salads.