Tropaeolum tuberosum

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Mashua tuber diversity Peru (Tropaeolum tuberosum).JPG
Various mashua tubers of different shapes and pigmentations
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Tropaeolaceae
Genus: Tropaeolum
T. tuberosum
Binomial name
Tropaeolum tuberosum

Tropaeolum tuberosum (mashua, see below for other names) is a species of flowering plant in the family Tropaeolaceae, grown in the Andes, particularly in Peru and Bolivia, and to a lesser extent in Ecuador as well as in some areas of Colombia, for its edible tubers, which are eaten cooked or roasted as a vegetable. It is a minor food source, especially to native Amerindian populations. Mashua is a herbaceous perennial climber growing to 2–4 m (7–13 ft) in height. It is related to garden nasturtiums, and is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental for its brightly coloured tubular flowers. [1]


Alternative names

This plant is commonly called mashua in Peru and Ecuador, [2] but other names include:

  • Mashwa (Ecuador and Peru)
  • Maswallo
  • Mazuko
  • Mascho (Peru)
  • Añu (in Peru and Bolivia)
  • Isaño
  • Cubio (in Colombia)
  • Tuberous nasturtium

In Boyacá, Colombia it is also named Nabu


The plant grows vigorously even in marginal soils and it competes well with weeds. It is 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. [3] Its extraordinary resistance to insect, nematode and bacterial pests is attributed to high levels of isothiocyanates. Although mashua is fully domesticated, it can persist in wild vegetation because of its aggressive growth and robustness. In Colombia, it is planted as a companion crop to repel pests in potato fields.

Popular Peruvian mashua cultivar Yawar Waqay, meaning "weeping blood" Peruvian mashua cultivar Yawar Waqay (Llorando sangre).JPG
Popular Peruvian mashua cultivar Yawar Waqay, meaning "weeping blood"

Culinary Use

Raw mashua tuber is bitter due to glucosinolates, but the bitterness diminishes after cooking, freezing, or pounding. [4] [5] The tubers comprise as much as 75 percent of the mature plants by dry weight (40 percent is typical for cereals)[ citation needed ]. Up to 75 percent of dry matter reaches the tubercle. [2]

Popularization of mashua may be limited by its strong flavor, and its reputation as an anaphrodisiac. Father Bernabé Cobo records that in the 16th century the Inca used to give enormous amounts of mashua to their troops so that they would forget their wives. [6] However, mashua tubers roasted in traditional earthen field ovens, built at harvest, are considered a delicacy. Also, the raw tubers can be shredded thinly and added to salads, to confer a spicy flavour and crunchy texture.

Flowering mashua plants near Quito, Ecuador, 1990 Flowering mashua Quito May 1990.tif
Flowering mashua plants near Quito, Ecuador, 1990

Cultivation as an ornamental

In its native range, mashua is mainly cultivated for its edible tubers, but it has ornamental value in the temperate zone because of its trailing habit and showy, bi-coloured tubular flowers, which appear 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. [7] [8]

Medicinal properties

Mashua has putative anaphrodisiac effects. [9] 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". [3] [10] Studies of male rats fed on mashua tubers have shown a 45% drop in testosterone levels due to the presence of isothiocyanates. [3]

See also

Related Research Articles

Potato Plant species producing the tuber used as a staple food

The potato is a starchy tuber of the plant Solanum tuberosum and is a root vegetable native to the Americas, with the plant itself being a perennial in the nightshade family Solanaceae.

<i>Tropaeolum</i> Genus of plants in the family Tropaeolaceae

Tropaeolum, commonly known as nasturtium, is a genus of roughly 80 species of annual and perennial herbaceous flowering plants. It was named by Carl Linnaeus in his book Species Plantarum, and is the only genus in the family Tropaeolaceae. The nasturtiums received their common name because they produce an oil similar to that of watercress.

Honeysuckle genus of flowering plants

Honeysuckles are arching shrubs or twining vines in the family Caprifoliaceae, native to northern latitudes in North America and Eurasia. Approximately 180 species of honeysuckle have been identified in North America and Eurasia. Widely known species include Lonicera periclymenum, Lonicera japonica and Lonicera sempervirens. L. japonica is an aggressive, highly invasive species considered a significant pest on the continents of North America, Europe, South America, Australia, and Africa.

<i>Oxalis tuberosa</i> Species of plant

Oxalis tuberosa is a perennial herbaceous plant that overwinters as underground stem tubers. These tubers are known as uqa in Quechua, oca in Spanish, yam in New Zealand and a number of other alternative names. The plant was brought into cultivation in the central and southern Andes for its tubers, which are used as a root vegetable. The plant is not known in the wild, but populations of wild Oxalis species that bear smaller tubers are known from four areas of the central Andean region. Oca was introduced to Europe in 1830 as a competitor to the potato, and to New Zealand as early as 1860.

<i>Allium tuberosum</i> Species of onion native to southwestern parts of the Chinese province of Shanxi

Allium tuberosum is a species of plant native to the Chinese province of Shanxi, and cultivated and naturalized elsewhere in Asia and around the world.

Celeriac Variety of plant

Celeriac, also called celery root, knob celery, and turnip-rooted celery, is a variety of celery cultivated for its edible stem or hypocotyl, and shoots. Celeriac is like a root vegetable except it has a bulbous hypocotyl with many small roots attached.

<i>Ullucus</i> Species of plant

Ullucus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Basellaceae, with one species, Ullucus tuberosus, a plant grown primarily as a root vegetable, secondarily as a leaf vegetable. The name ulluco is derived from the Quechua word ulluku, but depending on the region, it has many different names. These include illaco, melloco, chungua or ruba, olluco or papa lisa, or ulluma.

Yacón Species of plant

The yacón is a species of perennial daisy traditionally grown in the northern and central Andes from Colombia to northern Argentina for its crisp, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots. Their texture and flavour are very similar to jícama, mainly differing in that yacón has some slightly sweet, resinous, and floral undertones to its flavour, probably due to the presence of inulin, which produces the sweet taste of the roots of elecampane, as well. Another name for yacón is Peruvian ground apple, possibly from the French name of potato, pomme de terre. The tuber is composed mostly of water and fructooligosaccharide.

<i>Celosia argentea</i> Species of flowering plant

Celosia argentea, commonly known as the plumed cockscomb or silver cock's comb, is a herbaceous plant of tropical origin, and is known for its very bright colors. In India and China it is known as a troublesome weed.

<i>Coleus rotundifolius</i> Species of flowering plant

Coleus rotundifolius, synonyms Plectranthus rotundifolius and Solenostemon rotundifolius, commonly known as native or country potato in Africa and called Chinese potato in India, is a perennial herbaceous plant of the mint family (Lamiaceae) native to tropical Africa. It is cultivated for its edible tubers primarily in West Africa, as well as more recently in parts of Asia, especially India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

<i>Fuchsia magellanica</i> Species of flowering plant

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<i>Dioscorea bulbifera</i> Species of flowering plant in the yam family Dioscoreaceae

Dioscorea bulbifera is a species of true yam in the yam family, Dioscoreaceae. It is native to Africa, Asia and northern Australia. It is widely cultivated and has become naturalized in many regions.

<i>Hemerocallis fulva</i> Species of flowering plant in the family Asphodelaceae

Hemerocallis fulva, the orange day-lily, tawny daylily, corn lily, tiger daylily, fulvous daylily, ditch lily or Fourth of July lily, is a species of daylily native to Asia. It is very widely grown as an ornamental plant in temperate climates for its showy flowers and ease of cultivation. It is not a true lily in the genus Lilium, but gets its name from the superficial similarity of its flowers to Lilium and from the fact that each flower lasts only one day.

<i>Tropaeolum majus</i> Species of flowering plant in the family Tropaeolaceae

Tropaeolum majus, the garden nasturtium, nasturtium, Indian cress or monks cress, is a species of flowering plant in the family Tropaeolaceae, originating in the Andes from Bolivia north to Colombia. An easily-grown annual or short-lived perennial with disc-shaped leaves and brilliant orange or red flowers, it is of cultivated, probably hybrid origin. It is not closely related to the genus Nasturtium.

Inca cuisine

Inca cuisine originated in pre-Columbian times within the Inca civilization from the 13th to the 16th century. The Inca civilization stretched across many regions, and so there was a great diversity of plants and animals used for food, many of which remain unknown outside Peru. The most important staples were various tubers, roots, and grains. Maize was of high prestige, but could not be grown as extensively as it was further north. The most common sources of meat were guinea pigs and llamas, and dried fish was common.

<i>Iris ensata</i> Species of flowering plant

Iris ensata, the Japanese iris or Japanese water iris, formerly I. kaempferi, is a species of flowering plant in the family Iridaceae, native to Japan, China, Korea and Russia, and widely cultivated as an ornamental plant. "Japanese iris" may also refer to I. sanguinea and I. laevigata, both native to Japan.


Olluquito, olluquito con carne and olluquito con ch'arki are traditional dishes in Peruvian cuisine made with ulluku a root vegetable that also has edible leaves. It is an important root crop in the Andean region of South America, second only to the potato. The leaf and the tuber are edible; the leaves are similar to spinach, and the root is not unlike a potato or jicama. The Ulluku contains high levels of protein, calcium, and carotene. Papalisa were used by the Incas prior to arrival of Europeans in South America. It can be served with meat.

Muisca cuisine

Muisca cuisine describes the food and preparation the Muisca elaborated. The Muisca were an advanced civilization inhabiting the central highlands of the Colombian Andes before the Spanish conquest of the Muisca in the 1530s. Their diet and cuisine consisted of many endemic flora and fauna of Colombia.

Andean agriculture

Current agricultural practices of the Andean region of South America typically involve a synthesis of traditional Incan practices and modern techniques to deal with the unique terrain and climatic elements of the area. Millions of farmers in economically impoverished communities make a living producing staple crops such as potato, olluco, and mashua for their own consumption as well as profit in local and urban markets. The Andean region is particularly known for its wide variety of potato species, boasting over about 5,000 varieties identified by the International Potato Center based in Peru. These crops are arranged within the mountains and plateaus of the Andes in four distinct landscape-based units described as Hill, Ox Area, Early Planting, and Valley which overlap one another in a patchwork-styles of plateau surfaces, steep slopes, and wetland patches. Within each of these units, farmers classify soil types as either puna, suni.

Tropaeolum beuthii is a species of flowering plant in the family Tropaeolaceae, native to Northern Chile. Growing to 1 m (3.3 ft) in height, it is a tuberous summer-dormant climber. It belongs to the same genus as the more familiar annual nasturtium of gardens, Tropaeolum majus.


  1. Grau, Ortega, Nieto & Hermann (2003) Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum Ruíz & Pav.). [Extensive monograph on mashua]
  2. 1 2 Peace Diaries Workspace Archived 2008-01-23 at the Wayback Machine
  3. 1 2 3 Mashua Ethnobotanical Leaflet, Southern Illinois University
  4. Sanderson, Helen (2005). Prance, Ghillean; Nesbitt, Mark (eds.). The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge. p. 63. ISBN   0415927463.
  5. 10 perennial veggies to grow, San Francisco Gate
  6. Grau et al. (2003): 27.
  7. "RHS Plant Selector - Tropaeolum tuberosum var. lineamaculatum 'Ken Aslet'". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  8. "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 103. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  9. Johns, T; Kitts, WD; Newsome, F; Towers, GH (1982). "Anti-reproductive and other medicinal effects of Tropaeolum tuberosum" (PDF). Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 5 (2): 149–161. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(82)90040-X. PMID   7057655.
  10. Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation, National Academies Press

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