Monday, 5 October 2009

The Merry Month of Ocatuber

I might be, as my grandmother would have put it, a little previous in declaring October as the official oca lifting season. I'm actually hoping that the frosts will hold off for a good few weeks yet, which will allow the tubers of the ocas, ullucos and mashuas to swell properly. If we do get a killing frost this month, you can scratch the "merry" from this post's title. Now that days are shorter than 12 hours, the oca, mashua and ulluco plants seem to realise that it's time to perk up and face facts: perennate or perish.

After a prolonged period of dry weather, the rain has returned in what we refer to in this household as "mashua weather". This is the kind of drizzly, cool, cloudy weather that encourages lush growth in the mashua patch and provides the slugs and snails with 24/7 buffet opportunities. So the very weather that slaughtered the spuds earlier in the season is now back: it was only a matter of time. Still, the quicksilver droplets on mashua leaves are a partial compensation:












I've just noticed the first signs of flower buds developing on some of the mashua plants.

















I can't tell which variety though, as they have all grown together into a dense weed suppressing blanket as shown below, with my size 11 boot and shapely leg to give a bit of scale.












Some are ascending into the yacon plants. This might make for a pretty effect if the chill holds off for long enough and the mashuas flower. If they do, I'll be shutterbugging the results.
















One year, with particularly late autumn frosts, I actually got seeds forming on some of the mashuas, but they succumbed when we got a proper cold snap. So near, yet so far.

I've managed to harvest some oca seeds, all in their little envelopes, but I'm doubtful as to whether rather flimsy cellulose packets will survive more than a couple of cycles in the Atlantic front washing machine. You may be able to make out two seeds in the bottom left hand packet labelled 0908.













I'm considering using some grip-seal bags as replacements. Perhaps a bit of extra warmth courtesy of trapped solar radiation might hasten the pods' maturity. Another possibility is that the combination of warmth and moisture could produce parboiled pods like a vegetable version of boil-in-the-bag-chicken. Still, I'm willing to try anything - once - to get the harvest home. It's not a matter of life and death - it's far more important than that.

Since writing the above, I took the opportunity between showers to try out a couple of grip-seal bags as glassine replacements.
Here's what I did:


























Come in, I said, I'll give ya, shelter from the storm. Notice those nice red oca pods.

















If bagging works for bananas, why not ocas?

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