At Lima, Peru’s annual gastronomic festival Mistura you see some odd products. In the Gran Mercado, three hundred and fifty artisanal producers from every corner of the country are selling everything from chocolate and pisco to roasted sacha inchi seeds, as well as a rainbow of colorful quinoas and papas nativas. While I know the flavor of maca (Lepidium meyenii), a root vegetable native to the high Andes in Peru and Bolivia, I rarely encounter the actual raw ingredient up close as I did here. Maca is everywhere these days as it has caught on with the health food crowd for being highly nutritious. Rich in calcium, potassium, fatty acids, and nearly 20 amino acids, Maca has been showing up in powders and is said to increases, energy, strength, and sexual stimulation.
Traditionally cultivated at 8,000-14,500 feet above sea level, maca is almost always produced organically, as high altitudes carry few pests. In most instances it is dried before further use. It can be mashed and boiled and used to form a type of porridge. Increasingly maca is being made into a flour to be used in baking or more of a powder for supplements.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.