Oxalis tuberosa

Family: Oxalidaceae

Countries: Americas, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, South America

Oxalis tuberosa is more commonly known as Oca, in the UK.  One of the traditional Inca crops, Oxalis tuberosa is also known as the New Zealand yam; Oxalis tuberosa has many other common names, at least one in each of the countries that grow this vegetable.  This is an easy to grow vegetable, that produces small, cream, pink, red, orange, or peach coloured tubers, which have a taste that is somewhat similar to potato, when cooked.  Every now and then, I find a Oca tuber that has a slight lemony flavour.  The flavour and texture of the tubers can vary.  Replant the best tubers to grow next season.

Oxalis tuberosa can be grown in containers or planted directly in the soil.  Plant Oxalis tuberosa tubers in springtime.  You can start Oca tubers off in containers grown on a windowsill or inside a glasshouse, if you wish.  Then plant your Oca plants outside, after all risk of frost has passed, in late May or early June.  Alternatively, plant Oxalis tuberosa tubers directly where they are to grow, from late April to June.  Choose a sunny or partially shaded location, in any well drained soil.

I find that Oxalis tuberosa is a hardier vegetable than many gardeners realise.  On my plot, for the past twelve years in a row, small Oca tubers that were missed at harvesting time, have remained in my light, sandy soil to grow up and crop successfully the following year, without any protection from the elements whatsoever.  If you have a heavier, or a wetter soil, Oxalis tuberosa tubers may not overwinter so well.

Don’t worry, Oxalis tuberosa plants are not invasive in the same manner that Oxalis corniculata plants are.  This is not a pernicious weed in the UK, but Oxalis tuberosa plants will grow readily, given the right conditions.

The mistake that I find gardeners often make when growing Oxalis tuberosa is to try to harvest their plants too early.  Although Oxalis tuberosa plants grow up to form attractive, bushy plants in the summertime, the tubers themselves only start developing when the days shorten and temperatures drop, in late autumn.  Oxalis tuberosa plants need to be left in the ground, to grow on undisturbed until wintertime, to produce the largest tubers.  Oxalis tuberosa plants need to be left in situ, for a minimum of a couple of weeks after all the foliage has died back, longer if possible.

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