It’s obvious that there’s now a growing band of permie people growing this so-called ‘lost crop’ of the Incas. The tubers could easily be the model for gems or ‘power ups’ in a computer game they are so pretty. They come in a range of stunning colours, some with variegated eyes. They need a long growing season and tuber formation does not start until day length reduces after the autumn equinox. The three-leaved foliage is very pretty and provides good ground cover.
Work is ongoing to breed day-length neutral varieties. You can meet up with enthusiasts on the Radix Root Crops Facebook group.
The oca’s Latin name is Oxalis Tuberosa, the oxalis refers to the oxalic acid in the plant. This acid flavour reduces if the tuber is left in the sun for a few days. The tubers (unlike potatoes) can be eaten raw or cooked. When raw they have a crisp and firm texture, sweet with a touch of acidity. When cooked the texture is more like a firm but grainy/floury potato. They have a very pleasant sweetness to them. Most books will tell you to boil or roast like potatoes for 10-15 minutes. This is my first harvest and so I wanted to see what new recipes I could come up with for this new member of my veggy resources.
Obviously the quantities will depend on the number of servings you are trying to make. I’ll give you below enough dressing ingredients for serving 4-6 people.
4-500g oca, mixed colours if possible for visual interest.
60ml extra virgin olive oil
50g anchovy fillets, drained if in oil
3 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
A small bunch of flat leaved parsley, leaves picked and stalks reserved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the oca so that they are in approximately equal sized pieces. This is so they cook evenly.
Chop the parsley stems finely and put to one side. Chop the parsley leaves finely and keep separate from the stems.
Boil or steam the oca for about 10 minutes until there’s just give in the middle when you test them with a sharp knife. Strain the oca and leave to drain and air dry in a colander or sieve while you prepare the dressing in the pan you used to cook them. Make sure the pan is dry using a tea towel or over the hob heat.
Add the olive oil and heat over a low-medium heat. You need the oil to warm the anchovies and garlic and not brown them. Add the anchovies, garlic and parsley stems and cook gently stirring frequently until the anchovies have melted.
Take the pan off the heat and add the oca and chopped parsley leaves to the pan. Stir the oca gently in the flavoured oil to coat thoroughly.
Check seasoning and season to taste, give another stir and tuck in.
If you are keen to find out more about oca and other unusual vegetables then a visit to Radix: Root Crop Research and Ruminations is essential. For more on oca growing and breeding try: http://oca-testbed.blogspot.com/
Carl Legge lives on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales on a permaculture smallholding and writes a regular blog full of delicious recipes and more. He is currently writing The Permaculture Kitchen, a book of seasonal, local, home-grown delicious recipes for Permanent Publications, the book publishing arm of Permaculture magazine.