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Chago (Mauka, Miso) – Properties, Benefits, Origin, Characteristics and More

February 3, 2023
Chago (Mauka, Miso) - Properties, Benefits, Origin, Characteristics and More

Discover below one of the rarest and few known tubers: the chago, mauka or miso. Although it has been consumed by the descendants of the Inca peoples for thousands of years , it is still an unknown food for most people.

What is the chago or mauka?

The chago, miso in Ecuador and mauka in Bolivia, is a little-known edible tuber; Although it has been cultivated for thousands of years in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, it was not until the 1960s that it attracted the attention of some researchers. Its appearance is similar to that of  carrots , with a whitish yellow color, and its flavor is similar to the combination between potato and cabbage (cabbage).

Characteristics and data of interest

  • Mauka or chago is a rare root crop, with a very small distribution in the Andes.
  • Chago roots are usually white or yellow and can reach several pounds after a long growing season.
  • The plants grow perennially in regions where the soil does not freeze more than an inch deep.
  • The roots or tubers of this plant are eaten cooked; its dense flesh tastes like cabbage.
  • Miso leaves are also edible, although they are bitter and unpleasant for some people.
  • It is said that there are up to 30 varieties of this tuber, although in reality they have not been well studied and it is likely that there are duplications.

Nutritional properties

All parts of the chago are edible , even the tough stems of the plant can be eaten after long cooking. The leaves can be used as a green salad, however some people do not like them due to their bitter taste (high content of calcium oxalate). In some places, these leaves are a good source of food for animals, as they can provide significant amounts of protein.

The fresh tuber (root) provides between 134 and 162 calories per 100 grams. It is low in sodium, but high in potassium, and like the leaves, mauka root contains calcium oxalate.

Nutritional information (100g):

  • Calories: 134
  • Grease: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodio: 38 mg (2%)
  • Potasio: 500 mg (14%)
  • Carbohydrates: 25.4 g (8%)
  • Dietary fiber: 1.85 g (7%)
  • Proteins: 2.29 g (5%)
  • Calcium: 0.3%
  • Magnesium: 0%
  • Phosphorus: 0%

What is chago for? Benefits and uses

Mauka is grown mainly for domestic consumption and as food for animals. Due to its nutritional properties, it has been suggested that this tuber has the following benefits:

  • Increase energy levels . Being a food high in complex carbohydrates, chago constitutes a natural and sustained energy source over time.
  • Improves intestinal function . It favors good digestion and promotes regular bowel movements due to its contribution of dietary fiber.
  • It is a good source of protein . This tuber contains a significant amount of protein per serving, hence it has a more satiating effect and favors the execution of numerous regenerative processes in the body.
  • It prevents muscle cramps , maintains the fluid balance in the body , promotes good blood circulation , counteracts excess sodium and takes care of heart health , among other benefits, due to its important potassium content.

Besides this, the chago has great historical value ; the fields where it is still cultivated are repositories of knowledge and local historical memory. For these farmers, the mauka is an ancient asset that defied colonization, that is why it deserves to be remembered, revalued and revived.

How to consume chago?

When consuming chago, it is generally better to cut it into pieces and then peel it, as cleaning these roots can be tedious; they normally fold in a way that they catch the dirt. Each individual root has a thin, woody, inedible core that is easily removed after cooking. The simplest method of preparation is to boil the tuber for about an hour .

Harvested mauka roots are usually exposed to the sun for several days to concentrate their natural sugars, and are then eaten boiled as an accompaniment to meats (chicken, guinea pig, fish), or incorporated into stews and soups.

It can also be eaten in the form of a sweet, almost always mixing with sugar or honey after boiling. In fact, chago is the main ingredient in “mazamorra”, a traditional dessert from Latin America. Some people use it to make “sodas” (a flavored drink) and flours.

Frequent questions

What is the origin of chago (mauka or miso)?

The chago or mauka was a staple food for a part of the Inca tribes. It is said that the Incas used to separate potentially rebellious tribes and move them to other areas of the empire in order to weaken their solidarity. These relocated peoples brought their crops with them, which is why it is presumed that the mauka spread from the Cajamarca area, Peru to Bolivia and Ecuador.

After the chaos generated by the arrival of the Spanish to the New World, the relocation policy of the Incas may have served to preserve this crop, which otherwise would have disappeared. The tuber was rediscovered and described for the first time in the scientific literature in 1965, after it had been identified near Yorkarguaya in Bolivia.

What is the chago plant like?

The mauka is a relatively large plant, reaching up to 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter and 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) tall in a single growing season. Its stems are long and unruly.

The root, which is the main edible part of the plant, is similar to a dense cluster of yellow carrots, weighing about 5 pounds (2.3 kg), or more, if they have enough time to grow.

What does it taste like?

The flavor of this tuber is similar to a combination between potato and cabbage (cabbage), with a hint of bitterness and sweetness. Its texture is relatively dense.

What other names does it have?

The chago has other common names, for example, in Ecuador it is known as miso or tazo; In various parts of Peru and Bolivia it is called mauka, chago, cushpe, yuca de jalca, shalca-yuca, allja-yuca, yuca-inca, camotillo, arricón, arracacha de toro, radish, rabanito, paste, yuquilla, achagu and others.

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.