Native crops of Peru
Native crops of Bolivia
Native crops of Ecuador
Native crops of Peru Forum
Mirabilis expansa (mauka or chago) is cultivated as a root vegetable in the Andes, at cold, windy altitudes above 2700 meters. The above-ground portion dies back with frost, but the root is quite hardy. It grows to a height of 1 meter, and bears edible tuberous roots that can reach the size of a man's forearm, with a dry weight composition of about 7% protein and 87% carbohydrate. Yield can reach 50,000 kg/ha given two years maturation time. Great interest in this root crop has been generated by its ability to be grown in conditions that do not favor other root crops.
The roots of some forms if eaten directly can irritate the mucus membranes, and should be sun-dried and boiled before eating to eliminate the irritating substance. Bolivian forms are more often irritating than Ecuadoran forms. The cooking water of the M. expansa makes a satisfying sweet drink while leaves may also be eaten as a leaf vegetable or used raw in salads. Once the root has been exposed to the sun the astringent, bitter taste is replaced with sweetness. One of the traditional preparations the boiled roots are mixed with honey and toasted grain. Ecuadorians have both sweet and salty preparations.
Mirabilis expansa was an important root crop to the Inca empire and was considered a "lost" crop until being rediscovered in the 1960's and 1970's in three separate distant locations in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. There is a possibility that the plant's continued use and survival in three separate locations was due to the Inca policy of transplanting valuable food crops and communities throughout the empire.
Davidson, Alan. Oxford Companion to Food (1999). "Mauka", pp. 484-485 ISBN 0-19-211579-0
Plants for a Future database on Mirabilis expansa
Neglected crops: 1492 from a different perspective
Photos of chago
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Mirabilis expansa