A ‘Lost Crop’ of the Incas

After saying, or writing, last week that I was going to keep my veggie patch simple and just sow a few well-used crops, I have already been lead into temptation by one of Thompson & Morgan’s more unusual veggies. Damn those catalogues!

An odd-looking tuber vegetable is proving to be a surprise best-seller for them and has ‘hooked’ me too.

Oca is a knobbly root vegetable that looks a bit like an artichoke – but without the well-known windy after effect! The tubers have a tangy lemon taste which becomes deliciously nuttier when cooked. The red-skinned variety have a crisp pale orange or creamy-coloured flesh and when cooked and are similar to potatoes, (and are about the size of new potatoes), so can be used in the same way – boiled, baked, mashed and fried. The shoots and the attractive shamrock-shaped leaves can be added to salads for a tasty citrusy tang and fans of ‘eating raw’ can simply wash and slice their oca tubers into salads or crunch them as a tasty and wholesome snack. The plants are attractive too, so you can grow your oca in containers on the patio or decking area. All in all, they are an excellent value-for-money crop

Oca is one of the ‘Lost Crops’ of the Incas, and is also called the New Zealand yam, as it is grown commercially in New Zealand. It is easy to grow and T&M’s trials showed that the perennial oca plant performed well in the UK climate and did not suffer from blight or any noticeable pests. Oca is known to tolerate poor soils and different climatic conditions, which makes it ideal for any Welsh kitchen garden. I also have a friend who grows it very successfully on the west coast of Wales, so it definitely doesn’t mind our weather!

Oca or New Zealand yam is available from Thompson & Morgan’s website which also has the full growing details. Due to it’s popularity, T&M is only despatching oca until the end of March and customers are being offered 5 tubers for £4.50 and 10 tubers for £6.50 – half their original price – even better value for money!

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