If you’re like me you can’t sit down at the computer without a bowl of nibbles nearby (no wonder I’m putting on weight!), so rather than resort to teeth-rotting jellybeans, I like to have something more healthy on hand. That’s where my latest harvest comes in and here they are:
Oca tubers are planted as you see them here. In spring they put up leafy growth which grows through the summer and autumn. Tuber formation is initiated as the days start to shorten. Hilling up the soil around the stems, as for potatoes, encourages more tubers. In winter the above-ground growth dies back and the tubers are harvested. I eat the small ones and keep the largest for replanting. They don’t need to be peeled, just scrubbed to remove dirt.
Yacon produces two kinds of tuber. The ones you plant are pink and lumpy with visible growth nodes. They also produce leafy growth in spring and grow through summer and autumn, dying back in winter. The edible tubers, long and brown, like those shown, actually form under the growth tubers. They appear to be just swollen roots. If the soil is nice and friable, harvesting is easy; simply grab the dead leaf stems, heave, and the whole lot comes up. The edible tubers are simply twisted or broken off and the growth tubers replanted. This is a good system, because you don’t have to keep some edible tubers for replanting as you do with oca. With yacon you can eat the lot! I generally peel them first; they have a crunchy texture, rather like an apple and a sweet taste.
Both species are best planted where they receive shade from the hot afternoon sun. Yacon has large leaves which wilt readily. Oca leaves are small, composed of three leaflets (like oxalis, it’s in the same genus) which fold back in the hot sun. Both need plenty of summer watering and both can also be grown in large pots.
Yacon leaf growth
Green Harvest have tubers of both species available for sale around this time of year, so check out their on-line catalogue.