South American Root Vegetables

 

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We’re cultivating Oca Oxalis tuberosa and Yakon Smallanthus sonchifolius at Leafhopper Farm! The Oca is pictured here trellising in the kitchen garden. It has a leaf that looks a lot like that of the nasturtium; circular and bright green. This Peruvian root crop thrives as the days get shorter, and this year the original plantings are finally putting out new tubers as they establish. The leaves spread on thin vines, which clime along anything they can get their tendrils on. They are even outgrowing the hops now, a very interesting opportunity for companion planting in future. The colder temperatures will cut short this vibrant growth, causing the tubers to take much longer to form into edible sized tubers. We’ve been keeping our Yakon in the greenhouse, and will put some of the young tubers from this year into the protected covered space too.

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In it’s second year of adaptation in our gardens, the oca is beginning to establish new rootlets, a great sign for future harvesting at the farm. It will, however, be a few more years before we’ll have any real starchy goodness from this investment. The hot summers will also hinder growth, but the plants should adapt as they continue to establish. We might end up keeping a stable crop in the green house, or harden our strain up in time to thrive in The Pacific Northwest.

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The challenges of growing these Andean root vegetables has been catalogued by other Northwest growers on this page, which has a lot of great additional information on other South American root crops. To see how my seedlings are getting on, I dug into one of their established beds to glimps the new tubers. They are modest, but shaping up to be a stable foundation for future oca generations at Leafhopper Farm.

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