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How to Grow Bolivian Maca Root

Bolivian maca root (Lepidium meyenii) belongs to the radish family and grows in central Peru at elevations of 11,000 to 15,000 feet. Its habitat is barren, rocky terrain on the sides of mountains with intense sunlight, strong winds and frequent freezing temperatures. Maca root is a low-growing plant reaching 5 to 8 inches tall. This herbaceous biennial creates an edible, succulent root. The root looks like a turnip in size and shape, growing 3/4 to 2 inches across. The roots are white, yellow, gray, purple and red. Maca root is grown for its medicinal uses and nutritional properties.

Remove the weeds, grass and debris from an area with full sun exposure. Work the ground in the early spring as soon as it is dry enough not to stick to the garden tools. Dig the ground to the depth of 6 inches with a shovel. Mix in a 2-inch layer of manure or compost and break up clumps with the edge of a garden hoe. Rake the soil smooth and level.

Broadcast the Bolivian maca root seeds by the handfuls over the prepared planting area. Very lightly rake the seeds into the soil to the depth of 1/4 inch. Sprinkle the area with water until the top of the soil is wet. Keep the soil moist while the seeds are germinating.

Thin the maca root seedlings so they are 2 to 3 inches apart when they are two months old. This leaves room for the roots to grow to a mature size.

Pull any weeds that appear every week by hand. Grasp the top of the weed root under the leaves and pull. Try to remove the weed roots so they do not grow back.

Harvest maca root eight to nine months after sowing the seeds. Grasp the plants under the leaves and pull to remove the root from the ground. Lay the whole plant out in the sunlight for four to six days until it is dry. Place the roots under cover at night so the maca root does not collect moisture.

Tip

Bolivian maca root requires cool temperatures during its growing season. It tolerates nearly daily frosts in its natural habitat. Plant as a winter crop in areas with warm climates.

Warning

Bolivian maca root depletes the soil of nutrients and lowers the fertility of the soil. Rotate with a nitrogen fixing crop like clover every year and amend the soil before planting maca root again.

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