Mashua is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant which makes a fantastic addition to any food forest or perennial vegetable garden, having edible tubers, leaves and flowers, and being highly ornamental.
Related to common garden nasturtiums, mashua is native to the Peruvian Andes and regions of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Columbia and has been consumed there for thousands of years. Images of the tuber have been found on pottery that dates back to the pre-Hispanic era, and it was first introduced as an ornamental to Europe around 1827. The leaves
Mashua tubers have various health benefits including the highest levels of vitamin C, carotene and protein of any tubers, according to some studies. They also contain glucosinolates (mustard oils) which have anti-biotic and anti-cancer properties, and are also a natural pest deterrent, thereby making them a great companion crop. In their homelands they are also used for stock fodder.
The tubers can be eaten raw; they have the crunch and spicy hit of a radish – a little hot for my liking, but when we did our first taste tests they kept several of our tasters coming back for more. They can be sliced or grated thinly in salads, used in coleslaw, or pickled. Roasted is more my style – the tubers take on a creamy texture and the flavour is strong but sweet with a hint of licorice and vanilla, quite a complex flavour. The tubers can also be chopped and used like potatoes or yams in stews, soups, and curries. Mashua is said to work well in strongly spiced dishes, especially having an affinity with cumin, and can also be cooked with fatty meats to add flavour. The tubers can also be boiled, then frozen and made into a dessert or soaked in honey and molasses.
Like garden nasturtiums, mashua leaves can be used in salads, as green wraps, or wilted like spinach. The flowers have large nectaries and are sweet with hint of aniseed flavour, and not as spicy as nasturtium flowers.
Given another plant or structure to climb up, mashua can grow 2-4m tall. Otherwise it will trail as a groundcover. It can work well climbing up corn in the vege garden, or up trees and shrubs in a food forest. Mashua can grow on a wide range of soils including marginal and rocky soils, but thrives best in fertile organic soils. It enjoys cool summer temperatures, with temperatures remaining below 27 degrees, and is happy in an overcast, drizzly climate (remember they hail from elevations of over 3000m in the Andes, where the average annual temperature is 11 C). In the right conditions one plant can produce up to 8kg of tubers in a season, which, like potatoes, can be either consumed or used as replant tubers. In hotter, drier and sunnier areas of Aotearoa, part shade and summer irrigation will be required for plants to do well. A reasonably long frost-free autumn is also required as the tubers do not start to set until day length drops below 14 hours. Plants will tolerate a light frost but a heavy frost will kill the leaves and damage the tubers. Tubers are harvested in the early winter and can be left in the sun for up to a week to develop a sweeter flavour if required.
Certified organic plant in 11cm pot – rooted tuber with vine growing
Freight: We can send up to 6 plants this size (in 11cm pots) plus 3 x 9cm pots for the same freight price or they can be combined with other grades but this will incur higher freight costs.