Ahipa and Maca
Ahipa is the name the Inca gave to the highly nutritious legume root produced by the American yam bean (Pachyrhizus spp). The large root is shaped similarly to a radish with a thick top tapering toward the tip.
The plant has a highly efficient nitrogen capturing root system and can be grown without nitrogen fertilizers, making it highly suited to the needs of small farmers. The alkaloid contained in ahipa seeds and the toxic content of rotenone in its leaves and stems make it a good natural insecticide.
The nutritional value of ahipa is higher than that of many other root crops in terms of protein, and its high water content means that its starch is easily digestible. It is also a good source of potassium and vitamins C and K. The crunchy roots are usually eaten raw like an apple in snacks and salads. It can also be boiled and accompany dishes as a substitute for cassava or sweetpotato.
Despite their high oil and protein content, the seeds are inedible due to the presence of toxic rotenone. CIP breeders are working to detect rotenone free genotypes to select varieties with both edible roots and seeds.
The Ahipa Project is a CIP initiative focused on identifying high yielding varieties, improving the availabilty of ahipa collections and breeding lines, and capturing the full food potential of this highly nutritious crop.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca is something of a unique, wonder crop. The only cruciferae known to have been domesticated in the Americas, it is found only in Peru, growing at altitudes
over 4,000 meters, where no other crop gives reliable yields.
The maca root varies widely in color from yellow and whitish red to black. It has long held a reputation among local people for its miracle properties. It is credited with energizing mind and body, reducing stress, strengthening the immune system, balancing hormone levels, increasing libido and sexual stamina, enhancing fertility in men, and helping to mitigate the negative effects of menopause in women.It is extremely hardy and thrives in this inhospitable environment, which is characterized by regular frosts and mean monthly maximum temperatures under 12 degrees C during the growing season.
Experiments have also found maca to contain glucosinolates, substances that prevent the development of cancerous cells.
Traditionally the root is boiled, and then mixed with fruit juice and milk to make a thick broth. The fermented juice is also sometimes mixed with other liquors or used in desserts.
Since initial scientific studies began to prove the veracity of maca’s almost mythical power, the crop has experienced a commercial boom. The root is processed to make flour for bread and biscuits, dried powder, and gelatinized capsules. Much of this is organic. Export volume reached over 700,000 kilograms in 2010, and brought in revenues of over US$6 million.