Unusual Vegetable Plants


Oca – Oxalis Tuberosa.

The Oca, or New Zealand Yam, is yet another different vegetable that is being offered for sale by one or two mail order companies at what seems an horrendously expensive price. However, they are not freely available in the UK so the price reflects this as well as the fact that they are, with a little care, self-perpetuating so you may never need to buy a second packet!

This interesting root vegetable is a member of the Oxalis, or Clover family, but instead of being a nuisance weed, the plant produces tasty tubers at the end of a long growing season. If the season is cut short by an early frost, the underdeveloped tubers (that develop right at the end of the season,) can simply be saved as seed for the next year, much as you might save small potatoes, or Jerusalem Artichokes. Harvested tubers can be stored in a cool place for several months and still be fit to eat right up until they start shooting again, ready, for planting in the next season. A large, bushy, plant will develop from a tiny tuber little more than the size of a pea and in one season will produce some 50 or so tubers of varying sizes.

The roots do not need to be earthed up like potatoes, as they do not go green in sunlight. Indeed, exposure to sunlight after harvesting actually improves the flavour of the tubers as it helps to break down the Oxalic acid that they contain.

The tubers can be cooked in much the same way as potatoes, but they can also be scrubbed, sliced and eaten raw as in salads and also unlike potatoes, they do not suffer from blight. The skins of Oca can come in several colour variations to give added interest in salads and the foliage can be of interest in the kitchen as young leaves have a tangy taste of Lemon and can be mixed in with other salad leaves. Furthermore, the abundant foliage may also produce some tiny aerial tubers that can be harvested as future “Seed.” 

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