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Mashua (Cubio) – Properties, Benefits, Origin, Types, Characteristics

February 3, 2023
Mashua (Cubio) - Benefits

Mashua (Cubio)

Find out below what mashua or cubio, its characteristics, properties, benefits, the best way to consume it, possible contraindications, and other curious facts about this  Andean tuber.

What is mashua?

Mashua, or cubio, is an edible tuber originating in the Andes grown mainly in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia, although on a smaller scale. This tuber is usually yellowish-white, but there are also red and purple varieties; its flavor is milder than potatoes, with a floral and spicy aftertaste.

Characteristics and data of interest

Mashua Cubio

  • The mashua is a good food source for more than 9 million people who live in the Andes Mountains, at elevations between 2,500 and 4,000 meters above sea level. In fact, it is said that mashua ranks fourth, after potato, among the most important tubers in the Andean regions.
  • According to the Spanish chronicler Cobo, the Inca emperors fed their armies with this tuber “so that men would forget their wives.”
  • The size of the tubers of the mashua varies from approximately 7 cm to more than 30 cm.
  • Most varieties of mashua produce yellowish-white roots, although there are also red and purple varieties.
  • Cooked mashua is softer than potato and has a floral aftertaste. It is not usually eaten raw, as its taste is unpleasant.
  • Mashua leaves are edible and taste very similar to mustard greens.
  • This tuber grows best where summer temperatures do not exceed 80 ° F.
  • The cultivation of mashua is propagated by planting the tubers.

Nutritional properties of mashua

The mashua tubers are rich in water, carbohydrates, proteins, and nutrients such as vitamin C; the vitamin C content in 100 grams of mashua represents more than twice that of an orange.

In addition, it contains large amounts of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, compounds recognized for their antibiotic, diuretic and anticancer properties; they appear to contribute to carcinogenic detoxification and/or promotion apoptosis in precancerous cells.

Nutritional information (100 g of cooked mashua):

  • Calories: 45.7 Kcal
  • Water: 87 g
  • Protein: 1.5 g (3%)
  • Grease: 0.1 g (0.29%)
  • Carbohydrates: 9.7 g (7.46%)
  • Dietary fiber: 0.8 g (2.11%)
  • Vitamin C: 77.37 mg (85.9%)
  • Vitamin A: 1%

What is mashua for? Benefits and uses

Mashua is a tasty, nutritious, and low-calorie tuber. It is said that its regular consumption can bring the following benefits to our health:

  • Helps in cancer treatment:  it has been suggested that the daily consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits is directly related to a lower risk of developing various types of cancer, especially if they are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C.1 has shown that increased intake of vitamin C decreases the risk of lung, oral, vocal cord, throat, colon, rectal, stomach and esophagus cancers. This makes mashua an excellent option to prevent cancer naturally, as its vitamin C content per serving is impressive.
  • It is a healthy source of energy. Thanks to its carbohydrate content, mashua provides simple sugars (energy) that the body needs to complete its vital functions and that allow us to develop daily.
  • Promotes good heart health. Research shows2  scientific, maintaining a diet rich in protein helps control blood pressure, and therefore promotes good health of the cardiovascular system. Thanks to its protein content, this tuber is a very healthy alternative for Andean populations that consume it daily.
  • Improves the immune system. Adequate vitamin C intake improves the body’s ability to fight infection, repair wounds, and keep all kinds of germs away. It is not only a basic nutrient for our immune system3. It is also necessary to create collagen, the main structural protein found in connective tissue. This vitamin is precisely one of the main nutritional contributions of mashua, with approximately 77 mg of vitamin C in 100 grams.
  • Regulates the digestive system. Mashua also contains dietary fiber, which is essential for the proper functioning of the intestines. It helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and acts like a broom that “sweeps up” intestinal waste, thus reducing the risk of colon cancer.4
  • It can contribute to good reproductive health. It is said that the natural fat contained in mashua promotes good reproductive health, both in men and women, taking into account that our body uses it for the production and maintenance of hormonal balance. However, this benefit can be compromised due to the libido suppressing effect attributed to the root.

How to consume the mashua?

The tubers of the mashua are a basic food source in the Andean regions of South America. Its flowers, leaves, and buds are also edible.

  • This root vegetable is widely used in the preparation of soups, stews, and other dishes.
  • It can also be fried or baked; Baked mashua has an aromatic flavor and a soft texture that resembles a sweet potato.
  • Some populations use to soak mashua in molasses to prepare desserts.
  • The plant’s young leaves and fresh flowers are edible, almost always in the form of salads; flower buds are usually eaten pickled in vinegar.

Mashua soup recipe:

Side effects and contraindications

Although there is still not enough scientific evidence on the possible adverse effects of consuming mashua, it is recommended that children, pregnant women, and people who have thyroid problems (hypothyroidism, goiter) do not eat this tuber regularly.

Likewise, it is important to note that cubio has been considered a sexual suppressant; Unlike maca, its consumption is not associated with an increase, but with a decrease in libido; It has been observed that it can decrease the production of essential hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Along with camphor, coriander, licorice, marjoram, soybeans, and wild lettuce, mashua has been included in the list of antiaphrodisiacs (a substance that suppresses sexual appetite)5

A study dedicated to investigating the anti-reproductive effects of mashua determined that the consumption of low doses of this tuber could reduce the volume and quality of sperm in men. Hence it is contraindicated if the couple is trying to conceive a pregnancy .6

Note: these adverse effects on the male reproductive system can be reversed after approximately 24 days without consuming food.

Frequent questions

Does the cubios get fat?

Mashua is a relatively low-calorie food, but it can make you fat if consumed in excess. This type of tuber should be eaten in moderation, according to the energy requirements of each person. Combined with an active life and exercise, its moderate consumption can even be a good alternative to losing or maintaining weight.

How to store the cube?

These tubers can keep good for 6-8 weeks if stored at room temperature with moderate humidity. If they are stored at a temperature of 2 to 3 degrees C and 95% humidity (inside the refrigerator), they can extend their shelf life up to 8 months. Interestingly, mashua turns green when exposed to light, but this does not affect its flavor. Remember that cubio can also be preserved in pickles.

What is the origin of the mashua?

There is evidence of the use of mashua almost 8000 years ago. Mashua is one of the four main Andean tubers and seems to have originated in the Titicaca Basin in Peru and Bolivia. It was introduced to Europe in 1827, where its cultivation began to increase, but on a small scale and mainly as an ornamental plant.

Although it is still a fairly diverse crop, it is said that it may be endangered in the Andean region, where it has been particularly vulnerable to the replenishment of Old World crops. Unlike other once quite vulnerable crops, such as yacon and maca, mashua has yet to find a niche in world markets. It has recently been proposed as a possible “superfood.”

What is the mashua plant like?

The mashua or cubio plant is trendy among gardeners due to its attractive appearance. It is a climbing plant whose height ranges between 0.5 and 1 meter, and its width covers 1 or 2 meters in diameter. It has a thin, cylindrical aerial stem.

The foliage of the mashua is bluish-green, with alternate, round and peeled leaves. Each leaf consists of 3 to 5 lobes. The flowers can vary in color, from dark yellow, to orange or scarlet.

The tubers or rhizomes are usually pale yellowish-white in color, sometimes striped with purple and red betas. Some varieties of mashua can have red or purple roots.

How is cubio grown?

This plant is relatively easy to grow as it can survive in various types of soils. It is important to grow it next to a wall because it needs adequate support to grow. Mashua can resist most insect, bacterial, fungal, and nematode pests, which is why it is often sown in addition to potatoes and corn in places like Peru and Colombia.

The crop is propagated by planting the tubers. The bulbs or tubers should be planted in a warm and bright place during the spring, after the cold winter temperatures. As a curious fact, the mashua plant can also be grown indoors, in pots or containers.

Basic growing conditions:

  • Soil: It can grow in almost any type of soil, as long as it is moist.
  • Light: This plant grows well in direct sunlight.
  • Climate: dry climates are ideal for mashua.
  • Water: You need a lot of water during the summer, but the watering should decrease as winter comes.
  • Elevation: It is generally grown in the Andean highlands, between 2,600 meters and 4,000 meters above sea level, but that does not mean that it cannot be cultivated in lower regions.

It takes about 10 weeks to get a good yield from the harvest. However, the mashua can continue to grow for longer. Harvesting can be delayed until the plants die on their own due to winter.

What does mashua taste like?

Cooked mashua tubers are softer than potatoes and have a spicy floral aftertaste that resembles radish. Although raw mashua may be edible, it has a strange combination of flavors off-putting to most people.

Mashua leaves are also edible and taste very similar to mustard greens.

What other names does it have?

Common or traditional names of mashua are cubio, isaño, and anyu, bulbous nasturtium, nasturtium, edible nasturtium, Patagonian, Peruvian nasturtium, Peruvian nasturtium, tuber nasturtium, tuberous nasturtium, tuberous root nasturtium. Its scientific name is Tropaeolum tuberosum.


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My name is Louise Hammond, and I am the creator of this website, a place to find information about tubers, bulbs and medicinal roots. In I show the properties, benefits, characteristics, photos and images, ways of growing and how to make delicious meals from starchy vegetables.