For maca root to grow into a turnip-like root (also called hypocotyls) it will take approximately 8 months.
The hypocotyls can have from purple to cream and yellow color. A single plant of maca produces around 14 g of seeds.
Seeds are rather small, measuring 2 mm in length.
Usually, two plantings for two in a row years are cultivated and then the soil is allowed to lay unplanted for up to four years.
This is because maca seems to exhaust the soil by extracting most nutrients.
Maca sowing instructions
- Before planting, prepare the soil and then fertilize with sheep compost (if possible)
- Sow surface and just push the seeds by hand into the soil
- Make sure you keep soil moist and cool
- You can harvest your roots after about 6-8 months
Good to know: maca is very frost tolerant and it can survive in rather cold (windy) climates. The place in Peru where maca is grown has an average minimum temperature of -1.5 Celsius and an average maximum of 12 Celsius. When planting seeds, it is good to know that the natural soil in the maca production area is acidic, having a pH of 5 or less.
The soil in which it grows contains huge amounts of minerals which make the Maca high in nutritional value. Low temperatures and water availability during the growing season are very important in the development of the root. Lepidium Meyenii is typically grown as an annual crop completing its life cycle within a year, if conditions permit. Sowing takes place from September to October.
Maca seed collection
Some of the freshly harvested plants are used for seed production later on. For this purpose, the whole plants are stored in pits and covered with soil for almost two months to allow root re-growth. When ready, the roots are dug out and transplanted in empty sheep stables where plenty of natural fertilizer is available in the soil, for about four months. Then, plants are lifted, dried and the seeds are thrashed.
The hypocotyls are harvested from May to July when they are at their maximum size. Harvested maca is washed, and allowed to dry.
The whole plants are dried during the day under the sun for 10-15 days. Some farmers are drying their maca roots together with leaves, believing roots will be sweeter. During the night plants are covered to avoid rain and frost damage. Leaves are removed only after drying process is over. Then the roots are separated by size and quality and taken to the market or stored dry and protected from the rain. Selected roots are then replanted for seeds collection.
Maca sowing facts
Lepidium Meyenii is typically grown as an annual crop completing its life cycle within a year if conditions permit. However, in the Junín area, maca is grown as a biennial by holding the hypocotyls underground during the dry season. Maca reproduces predominantly by self-pollination. Sowing takes place from September to October. Before planting, the soil is well prepared and then fertilized with sheep compost. If later on, weeds are present, they are removed by hand.