Tropaeolaceae, Tropaeolum tuberosum, Mashua, Tuber Nasturtium – South America, Andes Region
Closely related to the common nasturtium, T. tuberosum is a perennial plant grown in the Andes Mountains of South America for its edible root. The plant is a creeper with fleshy stems and orange-red flowers similar to those of the Nasturtium.
The roots are white with purple spots, not dissimilar to the form of some potatoes. The roots are not eaten fresh but are dried and eaten like potatoes. Pickled tubers have been used in Europe to garnish hors d’oeuvres and cold meats. Leaves are added to salads for their spicy taste and attractive colors. Young seeds and unopened flowers are pickled with tarragon and used as a substitute for capers.
The Tuber Nasturtium is native to the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes. It was cultivated centuries before European Colonization. Europeans brought the plant back home where it has since been propagated and selected for its ornamental traits. The tuber nasturtium is practically unknown outside of South America where it is still grown as a staple food in many high altitude areas where few other crops will grow