So, back in the heady days at the start of 2012, before we knew that it would be the wettest year on record or that Jimmy Saville touched kids, 5olly started banging on about some shit called oca. I have eaten ocra before and it was frankly abhorrant, and I have seen the odd orca, although not yet tasted it, but oca was a new one on me. To be honest, I just thought the old fool had made it up or heard it wrong, you know what he is like.
I am pretty much up for anything, shy of incest or morris dancing, so I thought I would give it a whirl and bought myself ten tubers from that there ebay. For the princely sum of seven of your English pounds and twenty shiny copper pennies. I then sat down with a nice gin to wait.
A quick Google tells me that Oxalis tuberosa is a perennial herbaceous plant that overwinters as underground stem tubers. These tubers are known as oca, from the Quechua words okka, oqa, and uqa; New Zealand yam; and a number of other alternative names. All I really care about is how they taste and whether they are easy to prepare. I have worries as they look vaguely reminiscent of Crosnes and, as any allotmenter will tell you, any sort of Jerusalem artichoke, whilst jolly tasty, is a bugger to prepare and, once planted, will be harvested every season for the rest of your life. By everyone on the plot. Artichoke are second only to horseradish in the 'not bloody dying' stakes.
No, sorry - vegetables. They came in a jiffy bag and I made a small joke which my wife failed to understand, so I put them out in an egg box on the windowsill to erupt with spring joy. Not much happened for some time. I drank some more gin. I made some more gin. I drank some more gin. 5olly assured me that it was worth the wait, since I would be rewarded with sweet cricket balls of cool, radishy brassica joy. I think he was talking about kohl rabi, to be honest, but at least the gin was still good.
A quick tip: anyone who has difficulty remembering to attend to their vegetables when inside on the windowsill, just store the gin bottle next to them and you will never miss a day.
One morning, shortly after I buried the cat, I noticed a smallsprout appearing and my heart leapt. At last the oca was going to amount to something. Things progressed quickly from here - all ten tubers developed ears and soon they were ready for pots. I was a man beside himself with excitement as I waited for the first shoots to break the surface of the soil. It took bloody ages. Stupid 5olly and his stupid oca. With postage they worked out about a pound a pop and frankly they were not as much fun as the similarly priced fags which I had given up scant decades before. I am not a man known for my patience, but I persevered. Every morning and evening I paused en route to the gin bottle and tutted nasally at the undisturbed pots of compost taking up valuable kitchen space. Stupid oca.
Obviously, were that the end of the tale, I would not have bothered writing about it. "Paid £10 to bury pebbles in mud" is not really a lifetime achievement, so it is not really going to be much of a spoiler when I tell you that they did come through in the end and, once they were about 5" tall, I put them into a well dug and composted bed, just across from the asparagus. This is prime real estate, chez Manley, so they had a lot to live up to.
The chance of frost was now in the past, so I just got on with watering and watching them grow. The growth pattern was much like a squid, languishing on a beach in San Diego after a particularly boisterous work christmas do. They seem incapable of anything other than falling over and growing laterally, but there was a fair amount of foliage so, whilst they never astounded me, I remained confident. I mean, tubers, right? Yeah? Of course. What could go wrong?
Well, nothing went wrong, as far as I can tell. The oca grew, the oca died back, I covered it with some fleece (actually the ever lovely Jim, love of my life and mother to my children put fleece on it, but I knew about it, so it was almost me) and then, a couple of weeks later, I harvested my bountiful crop.
|The complete crop. (Not worth it)|
What a cake and arse party. I couldn't feed a guinea pig for an hour on that lot. Half of them were eaten by slugs or worms of some kind (so much for not being susceptible to blight) and there were only about 5 big enough to constitute actual foodstuffs. The plot needs to be set aside for basically the whole year, I got no flowers and the result tastes like a slightly shit potato.
To summarise: Oca; not worth the bleedin; effort, chum.
I shall, of course, be growing them again this year.
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