Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
Alan J Hartley
Mixed Success With Some Exotic Vegetables.
When I plant things I very often get to the point where I put things in the nearest available space and forget all about the carefully designed plans that I made on the computer before the season started. This was the case with the “Oca,” or “New Zealand, Yams,” that I planted in the late Spring. Most of the other vegetable plants had gone into the plot by that time and the Oca were just put in an odd bit of space that was left.
Consequently, some weeks ago, as it started to get colder and I wanted to wrap them up to against the early frosts, I only managed to put a fleece cloche over some of the plants. A few I couldn’t cover, so were left un-protected from the cold and those have now succumbed. As a result of this, I have harvested the first few OCA, or Oxalis Tuberosa plants, that were caught by the frosts.
For months now, other plot-holders were convinced that they were overgrown Clover weeds as they are members of the same family, but having dug up a few very nice little, tuberous roots, I know they weren’t and I was quite impressed with them. Not only are the colourful, smaller tubers tasty, if scrubbed and added to a salad like a Raddish, but the bigger ones can be cooked like a potato. My brother pointed out that they have Oxalic acid in them that is in fact the same highly poisonous acid that is found in Rhubarb leaves, but it is far more concentrated in Rhubarb and is only in the skins of the Oca, rather than the flesh. According to an old 1971 Encyclopaedia they are perfectly edible raw and are best after a few days in the sun (unlike most root vegetables) to break down the acidity in their skins.
Like most people I am tidying up my allotment ready for Winter now and the remaining Oca that are under the cloche are in the way for me to plant some of my new Currant bushes. However, they are still surviving at the moment, so will be left as will the few I grew at home, in potato tubs in my greenhouse. In the tub next to the Oca, in the greenhouse, I grew a few Sweet Potatoes, however, the Sweet Potatoes were smothered by the neighbouring Oca plants and produced nothing at all with those on the Allotments not faring much better, although I did get a handful of some small tubers. Everyone else on the allotment was convinced I was carefully growing Convolvulous under my giant Cloche Sweet Potatoes are in the same family, but it wasn’t and I have a dozen of the smallest Sweet Potatoes you have ever seen to prove it!! The plants obviously wanted some more growing time and even under the Fleece Cloche they were just too delicate for the early frosts this year. Unfortunately, with the cost of the young plants, I think they are too expensive to grow for such a risky crop. The plants did not flower, so there was not even any seed to collect, whereas the Oca are yielding hundreds of tiny tubers that should keep over winter to seed my plot with next year besides the few larger tubers to eat. As well as Being that little bit tougher than the Sweet Potatoes, the Oca plants should go on to produce even better tubers than those already harvested as they are still growing. So next year I will fill both large cloches with them and maybe try some under smaller, cheaper cloches as well, to maximise the number of plants that I can grow.