The maca plant is found in the high altitudes of the Peruvian Andes Mountains, at heights of up to 15,000 feet. It comes from the brassica family, so its relatives include broccoli, cabbage and turnips. Maca is extremely hardy and is able to tolerate frost, sun and wind!
Traditionally it’s the roots that are used, mainly for their adaptogenic properties. It’s thought that the special plant chemicals it contains have a positive effect on the stress response systems in the body, which explains why many use it to maintain energy and other vital functions, particularly during stressful periods. Other common uses include promoting balance in the reproductive system and some studies have found it to improve hormone production.
It can also be used as a food source with it’s butterscotch-like flavour. It has a high nutrient density and is rich in B vitamins, vitamin C and other minerals like calcium and iron. In the Andes, a local dish is made by roasting or baking the whole root and making it into a porridge called Mazamorra de Maca. Another traditional staple is a sweet fermented drink called maca chicha
Around the rest of the world, maca is now considered a superfood and typically used in the form of a powder, either pure or blended with other powders.