I didn’t get outside much over Christmas, as the weather wasn’t really conducive to gardening and we were happy having some quiet time indoors. But as harvesting the oca and ulluco was long overdue, I went out to do it yesterday afternoon. The photo above shows what the bed looked like at the end of August. The oca were clearly happier than the the ulluco by this time; they were always more numerous in terms of actual plants, so they had 2/3 bed.
The ulluco were closer to the path, so I started there. And the ulluco harvest was woeful. It was a negative harvest – I got out less than I planted. A handful of tiny, brightly coloured tubers. They’re not worth eating or saving; I might pot them up to see if I can turn them into a worthwhile leaf harvest.
The oca were better, in the sense that they were more numerous and some of the tubers were of a reasonable size. Once I’d cleared half of the bed I walked round to the other side… and made the uncomfortable discovery that there was a rodent tunnel in the bed.
Not wanting to encounter a nest of angry rats or anything, I did the girly thing and fetched Ryan, who gave the bed a good forking. He didn’t uncover any rodents. Phew! So I dug through thoroughly, and ended up with a small trugful of tubers. Not exactly a bountiful harvest, but not bad for oca, really. They’re not yet adapted to our climate, something the Guild of Oca Breeders is working on.
What went wrong with the ulluco? Did the anonymous rodents tunnel into the bed, ignore the oca and eat all the sizeable ulluco tubers, without leaving any signs of nibbling? Probably not. I suspect that the soil was too rich – helpful to the oca, but detrimental to the ulluco.
I’m going for a small harvest plan this year, opting for diversity and joy rather than bulk. I’m not feeling joyful after my unusual tuber harvest (although, having said that, these are only two species… there are more I haven’t harvested yet), so they haven’t earned a place in the 2017 garden (although that doesn’t mean I’ll never grow them again). I may pop a few oca into a container, and use them mainly as a leafy crop this year. We may just eat them all; they’re not as hard to replace as they once were.
Are you planning on growing oca or ulluco this year? Or have you grown them in the past and decided on something different this year? If you’re planning on growing any tuber crops this year, have a look at my post on how to store seed tubers for planting, to bridge that gap between when they arrive and when they can go in the ground!
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.