Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Autumn and oca

My life is looking a bit like this just now, as the leaves fall and fall faster than I can grind them into mulch.

My last harvest included large green and small red peppers, some overgrown fennel stalks, small and slug-nibbled eggplants, and a nice albeit holey cabbage, which is in large mason jars fermenting into sauerkraut even as I write. And then there's oca (Oxalis Tuberosa) - with a couple of mislaid small sweet potatoes.

Many, in fact, are the oca I have harvested so far from one little tuber, with three other plants to go. I should be able to seed the neighbourhood next year with the smaller ones I'm finding. I ate the larger ones, roasted with sweet potatoes, and they were delicious.

It's hard to describe the flavour: lemony is close. Fresh and raw, they are crisp and acidic and would sit proudly in a vegetable salad (though I've seen advice not to eat too many of them raw; due to oxalic acid content I'm guessing?). Roasted they are like potatoes, but with a pleasing tang, and would be wonderful in soups and stews as well.

When the foliage dies back and you dig them up, they rise from the dirt on their runners in rosy and peachy tints.

The oca plants started off in large pots, and were happy there for a while. By June they had become rather decorative.

Here's what they looked like when I finally transplanted them into my wading pool planter in August.

By September they were looking impressive.

Early November, they were large and inclined to sprawl everywhere, but still upright.

And now they are ready for harvest. I'll be storing them in a box in my garden shed, protected from frost, but kept cool and dry.