M=Maca or maca powder
The food the Peruvians have been using as a staple crop for millennia is maca, or maca root, which is usually dried and ground into a powder. In that form, it can be used to cook into soup, smoothies, and baked goods, although they say the gelatinized form is more potent.
Potent as what? Well, South Americans view the food supplement as medicine. Descendants of the Incas–the Quechua Indians — have used the plant that comes from the radish family medicinally since ancient times. The root is high in copper, calcium, and iron and it’s said it was used to increase fertility and for energy. The Incas used it to ready themselves for battle. Farmers feed it to livestock to increase the chance for fertility, and women used it to ease menopause or alleviate menstrual problems. Those suffering from fatigue, anemia, osteoporosis, also used it to treat their symptoms.
Outside of Peru, many others who are health-conscious, use it in smoothies, oatmeal and desserts. Western fans, like myself, liken the flavor to malty caramel, but others find it ‘earthy’. I always added it to my smoothies when I wanted that malt-like flavor. It gave me energy, and may have contributed to increased sexual activity, but I am not sure if my memory serves me right, I’ve slept since then. 😉
Maca’s earthy, nutty flavor blends well with chocolate and almond, so chocolate “malts” (sugar-free for me) would be delicious. It can also be added to muffins, breads, cakes, and cookies. Even keto versions of these sweet treats can be made better with maca. The Peruvians even made a sort of weak beer with the root of the maca, they prepared it by chewing the starch to initiate fermentation. (Yuck) It was called chicha. People who live in Huancayo, Peru are fans in particular of maca-based jams and puddings.
It’s ideal growing environment is an altitude of 13,000 feet in the Andes. Since the climate is harsh, maca was one of the few plants the Andean plateau dwellers could grow successfully. It has since gained the reputation as a “superfood”. It is shelf-stable, making it ideal for baked goods and/or thickening porridge or it can be used as a coffee substitute when roasted. Hmmm. Never tried that one!
I found in my research a delicious coffee alternative drink I will just have to try! Find the recipe here! Find maca on sale at iHerb for $6.61 for the 4oz. bag, or $20.88 for the 16oz bag. It is the more potent gelatinized powder.
Science has yet to substantiate many of the health claims, yet preliminary research has demonstrated the effects beyond a placebo. Initial studies suggest that it may benefit postmenopausal women in particular. Maybe several millennia of medicinal uses might be rooted in ancient truth after all.