The cold snap has abated and 2011 is here. Time to see what effect some exceptionally cold weather has had on the poor old ocas, which I was unable to lift at an appropriate time. I fear the worst. Now it's time to see whether those fears have been realised.
I spent a pleasant few hours on my hands and knees at Oca Acres the other day, rescuing what remains of my oca crop. There's something truly life affirming about plunging one's hands into icy, wet soil. Maybe the pain it causes reminds me that I'm still alive and this isn't a nightmare, it's real.
Avid readers will know that I've been using open-ended pots plunged in the soil to enable me to pack more plants in while keeping their tubers conveniently separate. I had reckoned without the ferocity of the frost, which seems to have penetrated all above ground soil or compost located in pots, with predictable results for any frost sensitive plant structures.
To compound my annoyance, those plants with nice, tightly clustered tubers around their stem base have taken the worst hit of all. Let's just say that I'll be adjusting my growing methods in future. I can see two options:
1) Harvest at a reasonable date before the onset of hard frosts, say the beginning of November.
2) Find another site where I can conduct trials on a more appropriate scale, without recourse to pots.
The third possibility, to disappear on the back of water buffalo and forgo any further contact with humanity (or alternative root crops), is currently in reserve if I mess up again.
Here are some of the tubers from seedlings raised in 2010. Many other quite promising looking ones have been reduced to mush, unfortunately. I don't think any taste testing will be going on this year.
To the best of my knowledge, neither of its parents had this tuber colour, but the riotous pollination free-for-all back in the heady days of 2009 makes it impossible to be sure.
Due to differences in pot configuration, location and maybe some other unknown factors, all the tubers from my reference collection, along with the tubers from last year's seedlings have been frozen - they are all dead. This is kind of like last year, when a spell in intensive care prevented me acting opportunely to harvest the tubers, only worse; I pulled through that experience, as did most of my ocas, but this lot won't. When you see the words "crop failure" in a seed catalogue, this is what it means: wailing banshee growers condemned to wander in a twlight world, their spirits unable to rest.
Actually, I'm bloodied but unbowed. I'm reminded of Galvarino, the 16th century Mapuche folk hero, from Chile. Captured by the Spanish invaders, both his hands were chopped off and he was sent home to his compatriots as a warning. Undaunted, he returned to fight again, with two knives strapped to his wrists in place of his missing appendages. The interwebs describe his attitude as "badass". Following his never-say-die example, I will rise again, a trowel in each hand and crack the small matter of locating a day neutral variety of Oxalis tuberosa. Up from the ashes grow the ocas of success. Happy New Year.