native habitat. It is possible that it could blend into the agricultural and culinary habits of many highland groups, providing them with a new food that is nutritious, tasty, and productive.
Other Developing Areas. Mauka seems worth testing in mountainous areas throughout the tropics. However, so little is known about this crop that as of now its future cannot be predicted. Exploratory experimental plots seem justified at this time, but anything beyond token trials should await further research in the Andes.
Industrialized Regions. Mauka is native to an upland region with a cool climate. Thus, in principle, it could grow in North America, Europe, Japan, and other temperate zones. Trials are worth attempting, but its commercial viability is far from assured. Years of research may be needed before its requirements for daylength, maximum production, and daily use are understood.
The edible parts are the upper part of the root and the lower part of the stem. These swollen thickened clumps, much like those of cassava, are usually boiled or fried and served as vegetables.
When freshly harvested, the mauka roots grown in Bolivia contain an astringent chemical that can burn the lips and tongue. Exposing them to the sun, however, replaces the bitterness with a pleasant, sugary flavor. Traditionally, the sun-sweetened tubers are chopped, boiled, and mixed with honey or brown sugar and toasted grain. The combination makes a hearty meal, and the cooking water makes an especially flavorful drink.
It is said that the mauka grown in Ecuador is not astringent. It is prepared in two ways: salty or sweet (de sal or de dulce). For salty mauka, the tubers are cleaned, cooked, and peeled, and then eaten immediately. To make sweet mauka, the stems and roots are layered with barley or mauka stems in a hollow in the ground for about a month, by which time the starches have largely hydrolyzed to sugars. Both salty and sweet forms are commonly mixed with syrup or molasses and eaten with tomatoes and fish (particularly sardines or tuna).
Like other Mirabilis species in the Andes, mauka is used as a feed, mainly for guinea pigs. Animals consume it fresh or dried. (In feeding pigs and guinea pigs, the raw tubers, leaves, and stems are often mixed with corn and weedy vegetation.) People also consume the leaves in salads.