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Oca

Oca plants from Lubera

With oca plants (Oxalis tuberosa), a new tuber fruit and root vegetable has found its way into our gardens.

   
 
Oca Tubered

Oxalis tuberosa with bright red tubers

From £5.40 *

Oca Tuberello

Oxalis tuberosa with yellow, luminous flesh

From £5.40 *

Oca Tuberosa

Oxalis tuberosa with the largest tubers

From £5.40 *

   
 

More information about oca plants

 

And when I write about "gardens", I don't just mean the vegetable garden, but the whole garden: oca plants are a very beautiful ground cover, with leaves reminiscent of the four-leaf clover and with attractive, reddish stem axes.

 

 

The oca tuber

 

With its above-ground organs, this tuber plant covers ground very quickly and grows best where there is almost no good ground cover: in partial shade or even shade! And in addition, as the day gets shorter, from September onwards, oca plants form 4-10 cm long tubers on the roots near the surface and on the shoot axes touching the ground, in a variety of colours from bright yellow to bright red (see our varieties)!

 

Eating oca

 

Oca tubers are basically suitable for all uses in the kitchen, which are also intended for potatoes, but in addition the tubers can also be enjoyed fresh as a snack. Quartered and seasoned with pepper and a little salt, they are a colourful enrichment for every standing buffet. The taste is sweet-sour; especially when the oca tubers are ripened in the sun after harvesting in October/November, some of the starch is converted into sugar, which then forms a delicate counterbalance to the sour taste, which is due to the oxalic acid. Such oca treats are a real delicacy and are also very popular because of the bright colour of their skin! Cooked, at least for me, in the oven and served slightly crispy tastes best!

 

Buy and plant Oxalis tuberosa

 

Oca plants (Oxalis tuberosa) are best bought in the spring. The reason is very simple: they are best planted from the beginning/mid-May, when the danger of frost is over. Plant 30-50 cm apart and rather deep because then the tubers will start to grow on the underground plant shoots. Oca's above-ground shoots grow best in late spring, early summer and then again from mid-August. The plant shoots grow upright to about 30 cm and then lay down, so that more and more area is covered. Wherever the shoots touch the ground, the tubers are formed from September onwards, not only in the centre of the plant. Note: the tuber formation only begins with the day becoming shorter, normally from September. It is also important that tuber formation and growth can continue as long as possible and that harvesting takes place as late as possible, at the end of October/beginning of November. The harvest of well cultivated oca is greater than that of potatoes!

 

Advantages of oca plants (Oxalis tuberosa)

  • They love shady and semi-shady locations
  • The tubers can be fresh, cooked, fried or prepared as a puree
  • Oca tubers are very light and easy to store and the yield is relatively high (can exceed that of potatoes)
  • There are no known plant diseases with oca plants
  • Oca can also be planted late, in not too hot locations from May to the beginning of August, as tuber formation does not start until September

 

Tips

  • Deliberately choose a 'bad', semi-shady or shady location, the growth rate is much better there than in the full sun. And the more and longer shoots the oca plants form and the more shoots touch the ground, the more tubers are formed!
  • It is worth pouring a few shovels of garden soil over the shoots in the second half of August to promote soil contact. Alternatively, the shoots can also be pressed slightly into the soil by hand. When they come into contact with the soil, the Oca immediately start to grow tubers.
  • Harvest as late as possible! Harvesting later leads to a larger harvest!
  • It is worth covering the oca plants with fleece from October onwards to keep out the first autumn frosts and thus allow longer tubers growth.

 

Origin of oca plants

 

Oca plants (Oxalis tuberosa) originate from the highlands of the Andes, where they are still the second most important root crop after potatoes. In this centre of their use, a huge variety of shapes and colours has also developed - and it is assumed today that the oca was used for "conscious" agronomic cultivation long before potatoes. In contrast to the potato, however, in other regions of the world, they have only established themselves in Mexico and, from the 19th century onwards, also in New Zealand, where they are known as New Zealand yam and are also regarded as a native root vegetable.

Only in the last 10 years has the New Zealand yam came to England and Ireland, where they are often and somewhat confusingly sometimes also called yam. This name leads to confusion with other root vegetables, which are also called yam. This is why the clear and unambiguous name oca is preferable. It is typical for the modern way of spreading the oca that it was first recommended to me by an Irish gardener friend, Pat Fitzgerald.

 

Soil and location

 

If the oca is now increasingly finding its way into European gardens, this is mainly due to its clear advantages: the versatile use of the tubers (also fresh as a snack), the attractive ground-cover character of the plant and the preference for semi-shady and shady locations. Oca plants, therefore, feel at home in places where otherwise not so many plants can establish themselves. They grow best at 18-24°C when it gets too hot in the summer and when the sun is scorching, they stop growing in midsummer. Like many other plants, they prefer humusy, rather light soils, but have a wide tolerance there, also concerning the acidity of the soil (slightly acidic to alkaline soils are possible).

 

How to use oca in the kitchen?

 

Oca can be used in many ways. Unlike potatoes, Oca tubers are extremely refreshing and delicate even when uncooked, especially if they are ripened for a few days under the autumn sun after harvesting. The attractive, bright colours from yellow to red do the rest to please not only the palate but also the eye. Ideally, oca should be cut into quarters lengthwise and served with a little salt and pepper and a dip. Furthermore, it can be processed to puree and all other dishes that are also possible with potatoes. But during cooking, the colour gets lost. But if you slice the oca and cook it in the oven as chips and then serve it slightly crispy, the colour of the skin will be preserved. The oca should therefore not be peeled. For me personally, the chips are the best oca dish! But there are no limits to your fantasy...

 

What do native clover and wood sorrel have to do with each other?

 

Nothing. Or almost nothing. The almost identical German names (Klee/Sauerklee) probably stem from the similarity of the leaves. Our native clover is botanically Trifolium, wood sorrel is Oxalis, so there is no close relationship. However, the bulbous wood sorrel is related to the four-leaf clover. We have often heard that customers are afraid that the oca will settle in the garden like the native clover and you almost can't get rid of the plant. This is certainly not the case with the cca in our climate, they have to be replanted every year; either by buying new young plants or by preferring some stored tubers frost-free in pots from March on and then replanting them in May.

 

Are they hardy?

 

No, they definitely are not. The above-ground organs die immediately in frost, and the tubers turn to mud immediately if the ground is very frosty. There are somewhat contradictory statements in the literature, which is why we tested this thoroughly in our test plant: we planted oca at different depths and even after a mild winter like 2015/16 not a single plant has grown further. It is conceivable, however, that in very mild regions and a mild microclimate some tubers might survive, but only if they don't get ground frost. The different information in the literature is based on experiences in regions where there is almost no winter.

 

Storage

 

Oxalis tuberosa tubers are easier to store than potatoes and sweet potatoes. After harvesting, wash them, let them dry, let them ripen for a few days in the sunshine and then store them in loose crates in a cool and dry place at 5 -10 degrees Celsius. This can be easily bridged up to four months. Note: even mice love Oxalis tuberosa!

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