The Oca of Peru (Oxalis tuberosa, syn. Oxalis crenate) is a herbaceous plant of Peruvian and Bolivian origin that belongs to the family of Oxalidaceae. Little known in our latitudes, it nevertheless deserves to be grown in the vegetable garden because its edible tuber, certainly very caloric, brings a good dose of energy to the body and displays a very interesting content of minerals, trace elements and vitamin C. Let’s discover together how to cultivate the Oca of Peru and also see how to harvest and preserve its delicious tubers as big as beautiful nuts.
Sow the Oca of Peru
Sowing can be done from the beginning of April if you live in one of our southernmost regions. To do this, each tuber is placed in a planting hole 6 cm deep and covered with good soil, loose, light and rich. We finish with a copious watering in rain. It remains to ensure that the soil remains moist.
Many gardeners prefer not to sow the Oca of Peru because they are well aware that this plant is not not at all rustic. They opt for thepurchase of seedlings in pots in order to start their culture during the spring but under shelter, in order to limit the risks and in fine to save time. In this season, in our country, the temperatures are indeed still often too low to be suitable for this exotic plant. It is only when the risks of late frosts have completely disappeared that one can plant them in the ground.
Pour plant the Oca of Peruit suffices to respect the following points.
- Dig a hole 6 to 8 cm deep for each seedling in pot or from seedlings,
- Respect a distance of 50 cm between the holes of the same board and 80 to 100 cm between two boards or two rows.
- Install the seedlings in the holes.
- Tamp very lightly.
- Water in fine rain quite generously.
When planting Peruvian ocas, it is very important to provide enough space so that, once well developed, the foliage of each subject can benefit from a good ventilation. This is also an essential point in gardening to keep vegetables and ornamental plants healthy.
Growing Peruvian Oca
The Oca of Peru likes to be installed under the sun, sheltered from the prevailing winds, in a light, well-drained and very fertile soil rich in humus. He does not tolerate heavy soils and sticky or too compact.
It is possible to cultivate several varieties of Oca from Peru. They are very similar nutritionally and taste-wise. Their difference is mainly due to the color of the tuber which can be carmine red with white areas, or even creamy white, purple or even ocher streaked with red and pink. Note, however, that the red color turns pink when cooked.
Their delicious flavor subtly evokes fresh apples and chestnuts and you can also perceive a slight lemony note. We distinguish a hint of acidity refreshing due to the oxalic acid contained in the tubers. It is for this reason, moreover, that this food is not recommended for rheumatics as well as for people suffering fromUratic or gouty arthropathya disease commonly referred to as gout.
Maintaining the Oca of Peru
To vary the culinary pleasures, grow these Andean plateau tubers is an excellent idea, especially since the Oca of Peru is a small root vegetable who is not not very demanding. It is perfect for novice gardeners who know how to be patient because its cultivation is quite long.
The Oca of Peru must not lack water.
It is necessary to mound the ocas of Peru regularly because their stems have the annoying habit of lying on the ground. The operation consists of bringing earth to the foot of each plant in order to always maintain a high enough mound leaving only about twenty centimeters of stems in the open air.
Hilling is essential for increase tuber production since it promotes the spontaneous layering of the stems, and, as soon as there is the slightest risk of frost, that is to say from the month of October in certain geographical areas, it finally constitutes a protection against the cold .
In addition to ridging, the use of a mulchto one winter sail or to a tunnel is almost unavoidable in many of our regions from the very beginning of autumn. Let’s not forget that the cultivation of Oca from Peru is long and that the harvest does not take place until November or December if the planting has been carried out at the end of spring.
Pests and diseases
This is enough to encourage gardeners to cultivate the Oca of Peru: this plant is not sensitive to no parasitic insects and does not seem to be concerned with no disease. Beware of rodents, however, which tend to cut root vegetables, the Oca from Peru being no exception to the rule.
Harvesting the Oca of Peru
There is an average of 210 days between planting Peruvian ocas in pots and harvesting the tubers, i.e. 30 weeks (or about 7.5 months). As soon as the frost has made all the foliage disappear, it’s time to harvest the Peruvian Oca tubers. Just pull the stems to pull the little root vegetables out of the ground.
Once harvested, the tubers should be left in the open, preferably in the sun, or at least on a table sheltered from the rain, and absolutely frost-free, for about 4 days. This is an essential precaution so that they lose their acidity. As for their the duration of the conversationit can be several weeks to a few months, provided these root vegetables are stored in a cool, dry, well ventilated and totally dark cellar, the same way we do with potatoes. Some producers keep them in the cellar in a thick layer of sand.
Finally, note that the skin covering the tubers of Oca from Peru is extremely thin, which makes theoptional peelingthat we wish to taste them raw or cooked. Raw, thinly sliced, they bring freshness to a mixed salad as well as an aesthetic note, especially with regard to the pink, purple and red varieties. If you want to cook them, you can cook them in broth, sauté them, fry them, caramelize them, put them in the oven, steam them, in short, they are prepared like potatoes… You just have to think about reducing the cooking time because these tubers are not very big.
Finally, let us know that the young leaves of the Peruvian Oca are eaten they too. They have a good taste of sorrel and are cooked in the same way as this plant (Rumex sorrel). They can therefore be harvested as needed to enjoy them freshly picked, and in any case before they freeze.