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The mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum, see below for other names) is a species of flowering plant in the family Tropaeolaceae, grown in the Andes for its edible tuber, which is eaten as a root vegetable. It is a major food source there. Native to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, it is an herbaceous perennial climber growing to 2–4 m (7–13 ft) in height. It is related to garden nasturtiums, and is also widely cultivated as an ornamental for its brightly coloured tubular flowers.
This plant is commonly called mashua in Peru and Ecuador, but other names include:
The plant grows vigorously even in marginal soils and in the presence of weeds. It is also well-adapted to high-altitude subsistence agriculture, and gives high yields; 30 tonnes per hectare are yielded at a height of 3000 metres, but up to 70 tons per hectare have been produced under research conditions. Its extraordinary resistance to insect, nematode and bacterial pests is attributed to high levels of isothiocyanates. In Colombia, it is planted as a companion crop to repel pests in potato fields.
Mashua as a food
The tuber is rather peppery in flavor when raw, but this quality disappears when cooked. The tubers comprise as much as 75 percent of the mature plants by dry weight (40 percent is typical for cereals). Up to 75 percent of dry matter reaches the tubercle.
Popularization of mashua may be limited by its strong flavor, and its reputation as an anaphrodisiac.
Cultivation as an ornamental
This plant is cultivated for its climbing habit and its showy, bi-coloured tubular flowers in summer and autumn. The sepals are orange-red while the petals are bright yellow. In areas prone to frost, it requires some protection in winter. The cultivar T. tuberosum var. lineamaculatum 'Ken Aslet' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Mashua has putative anaphrodisiac effects. It has been recorded by the Spanish chronicler Cobo that mashua was fed to their armies by the Inca Emperors, "that they should forget their wives". Studies of male rats fed on mashua tubers have shown a 45% drop in testosterone levels.
- Peace Diaries Workspace
- Mashua Ethnobotanical Leaflet, Southern Illinois University
- 10 perennial veggies to grow, San Francisco Gate
- Johns, T; Kitts, WD; Newsome, F; Towers, GH (1982). "Anti-reproductive and other medicinal effects of Tropaeolum tuberosum". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 5 (2): 149 –161. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(82)90040-X. PMID 7057655.
- Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation, National Academies Press
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