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Superfoods Part II - Maca, Goji Berries & Purple Corn by Liz Bygrave ( June 2009)

Three more useful and fascinating superfoods:

Maca Powder

Maca is one of the many superfoods to hail from South America.  I think it was the first to reach the attention of the west - I remember coming across it in Byron Bay, Australia’s alternative centre when I was travelling there in 2002.  (Oh, that brings back the sun, the sea, the sand, the endless Australian sky...)  Near Byron Bay was also the place I first got into raw food, which started me on the journey which has brought me to this point where.....I am meant to be talking about maca.

Maca grows in a harsh climate - very cold in winter and very hot in summer.  It has to be tough to survive, and is said to pass on this quality to those who eat it.  Locals chew on it when they go on long journeys to give them the endurance necessary to make the trek.  Maca is also well known for its ability to balance female hormones - and I do indeed come across many women who swear by it for this purpose.  It is also said to balance male hormones too, though perhaps to a lesser extent (suma is said to be the superfood for male hormones) .

Maca also does lots of other things: it’s an ‘adaptogen’, which means that it will fit itself to whatever needs to be done in your body.  As well as giving endurance, many people find that it increases energy levels and enhance mood.  It is high in vitamins, minerals (especially calcium and magnesium) and protein.  It can also act as an immune booster.

Maca powder is made from the root of the plant.  It has both a malty and a bitter taste.  The latter means you have to be careful how you use it - too much and it won’t taste very nice at all.  You have to be pretty hardcore to like using a lot all in one go, though some do.

I sometimes add it in small amounts to my chocolate recipes (though to be honest I prefer the other superfoods for this purpose).  I do use it in larger amounts sometimes when I combine it with other superfoods such as lucuma and raw carob (for instance, there will be a chocolate bar recipe in the soon-to-be published recipe booklet where I do this).  On one recent workshop, a participant (hello Natalie) discovered that adding it to the Chocolate Mousse recipe was a successful and tasty experiment.  It also makes a good ‘horlicks’ type milky drink if you combine it with sweetener and a milk of some kind (like nutmilk).   

Purple Corn

This is, literally, a purple form of corn. Corn itself is not a nutritionally dense food, but of course, if it’s purple, it will contain lots of antioxidants from being this colour. Purple corn is made into two types of powders: purple corn flour and purple corn extract.

Purple corn flour is a light mauve/grey colour  and can be used in smoothies, and in pie bases as a wheat flour replacement. I find that a little bit added to a chocolate recipe can help cut any bitterness in the chocolate.

Purple corn extract is made by juicing the purple corn and then freeze drying it. This produces a fine, silky, very nutrient-dense powder.  It has an intense purple colour with an equally intense berry-like smell and taste. It’s fairly expensive, but a little goes an awfully long way . I like to add it to dark chocolate bar recipes because of the berry-like taste.

Goji Berries

Also known as wolfberries, these are probably the most well known of the superfoods, and the only one that doesn’t hail from South America. Instead, goji berries come from Tibet and China, though it is possible that you may find them growing in British hedgerows as they are suited to a variety of climates. It tickles me that the plants are even beginning to be sold in garden centres.

Goji berries are a red colour, not that sweet in taste, and are high in antioxidants, trace minerals, the B vitamins, Vitamin E and betacarotene and a host of other nutrients. In fact they could well be the most nutritionally dense berry on the planet. They also contain all the essential amino acids, the precursors of protein. They are meant to be good for the immune system, and indeed I quite often hear from people that since eating them they haven’t had a cold, or that if they feel a cold coming on, they eat a handful of goji berries and the cold goes away. The Chinese regard them as a key food for longevity

Goji berries are less sweet than other dried fruit and are delicious in muesli, trail mix, porridge or fruit salad. They can be used in a variety of recipes, both soaked or unsoaked (to soften the berries by soaking, just place them in water for a couple of hours, then rinse and drain).   In the forthcoming chocolate recipe booklet, there is  a ganache recipe where I use soaked goji berries as a major part of the filling. They also work well added to chocolate bar recipes along with nuts, seeds, dessicated coconut etc for a fruit and nut chocolate bar.


Goji berries are the only dried fruit I use (apart from yacon root). Most dried fruit is very high in sugar, therefore I prefer to avoid it, but because goji berries are not very sweet, and so high in nutrients, I make an exception for them. I certainly don’t find they give me any sort of sugar high or low, unlike other dried fruits.

You can buy maca, goji berries and purple corn (extract) from the Sweet Sensations shop.

To find out about the superfoods lucuma, raw carob and mesquite, click here.

Other articles on this site:

A Guide to Natural Sugar Substitutes

Xylitol: Ahealthier Way To SweetenYour Food?

What’s Up With Agave?

Coconut Sugar - Nature’s Perfect Sweetener?

My Top Six Favourite Ingredients

A Beginners’ Guide to Raw Chocolate

Superfoods Part One

Essential Equipment for a No Cook Sweet Treats Kitchen

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Please note that any information given on this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be taken as such.