Oca

These wrinkly-pinkly things, looking like colourful, overgrown witchetty grubs, are oca tubers.

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Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) is a South American edible tuberous plant grown in the same way as potatoes. You plant the tubers in spring and as the weather warms, the foliage appears above ground. The stems are pink and fleshy and rather brittle. They tend to break easily. The leaves are grey-green and trifoliate (for the non-botanists that’s having 3 leaflets).

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You hill up the soil around the stems and give them plenty of water if the weather’s hot. They don’t mind a bit of shade in the heat of the day. In hot sun the leaflets will fold right back.

As the weather cools in late autumn the foliage will start to die back and you can start fossicking around in the soil for the crop of tubers. They’re crisp and crunchy, with a slight lemony tang. Leaving them on the soil surface in the sun for a couple of days will sweeten them up. They can be boiled, baked or fried. No need to peel, just scrub the skin free of dirt. In Mexico, oca is commonly sprinkled with salt, lemon and hot pepper and eaten raw. So far I’ve only eaten them raw. Leaving enough tubers uneaten (select the biggest) to replant the following spring is the hardest part. Store them in moist sand, sawdust or replant straight away. Out of sight, out of mind (and mouth).

Later edit:

Linda Cockburn, who with partner Trev and son Caleb, are now living the Good Life in Tassie, has written more about oca in her blog.

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6 Responses to “Oca”

  1. kaye Says:

    My Oca never did that well the first season but now that the soil has been built up and the surviving tubers shifted to a main bed where they get a little more TLC, the greenery shows much more promise. I’m looking forward to a good crop this next season! Thanks for sharing your expertise.

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  2. Hugh Says:

    Hope this isn’t a terrible breach of etiquette, but I’m an ex kiwi and desperate to find some oca (“yam”) tubers to plant this spring. I’ve left my run too late for what seems to be the only online place to buy them, Green Harvest in Qld.

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  3. Miscellany « Foodnstuff Says:

    […] oca is dying back and I’ve bandicooted a few tubers. I hope there’ll be a few to actually […]

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  4. Nibbles to surf the Net by « Foodnstuff Says:

    […] are underground tubers; the pink ones on the right are oca and the brown ones are yacon. Both hail from South America, the home of that more well-known tuber, […]

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  5. Michelle Says:

    Hi i was wondering if i could buy some oca (yams) tubers off you as i am having trouble finding a source.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Michelle,

      No problems as long as you’re in Australia. Will email you privately for your snailmail.

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