Saturday, 14 January 2012

Cornwall's Tiny Little Oca Cook Off 2012

Belated Happy New Year.

Due to circumstances beyond my control (serious illness, cold snaps, congenital horticultural ineptitude), we haven't had the chance to eat very many ocas over the last few years.  It's clearly high time to right this appalling transgression of the natural order of things. Conservation through consumption - that's my motto.

So when I was feeling rather peckish the other day, my thoughts turned to the recently lifted oca crop; bake off programmes seem to fill the airwaves these days -  I thought I'd stage one of my own.  Reaching into my characteristically disorganised oca store, I grabbed the nearest and largest tubers available - the ones which the voles, mice, rats and other assorted rodents hadn't yet reduced to fragments. It turned out these were varieties I got from Frank van Keirsbilck over in Belgium, although some of them were raised from seed I sent him.

I gave them a quick wash and popped them into the oven.  Before that, I took these farewell pictures, which catch their comely proportions quite well.  I suspect that the long, mild autumn gave them plenty of time to bulk up.

Flesh colour varied according to variety, with the large one above being white, despite the colour of its skin; the pale yellow ones were yellow (d'oh) and  Frank's excellent variety 'Pink Dragon' (far right) also had yellow flesh, with dark red staining.





None of them were overpoweringly acidic as is sometimes the case with ocas - they all tasted very pleasant.  There were differences in texture, with the big stubby one having a slightly more floury texture than the others; the long pale ones were almost buttery in texture.  Others more competent than I are exploring the delights of oca cuisine - check out Carl's recipe for warm oca salad.

Although oca was introduced to Europe in the 19th century as a potential replacement for blight prone potatoes, I think it has its own distinctive taste and a bold, attention-grabbing appearance.  I reckon it makes very good eating and fits well into contemporary foodways here. If we can just knock a few months off the production cycle, we'll have ourselves an excellent new carbohydrate source and an eye-catching one at that.  The Radix quest for a day neutral oca continues; you can be part of it.

3 comments:

Mark said...

How many seeds do you get per plant(approximately)? I was given some oca from Cornwall. Glasgow Botanic gardens curator's mother had apparently plenty to go round, so will now be growing them in Glasgow. Although, he says they have never produced any seed, we shall see.

Ian Pearson said...

Seems a shame to eat them. Almost.
I'm always a bit disappointed when the colour is lost during cooking.

Rhizowen said...

Hi Mark - seed count per plant varies - I've had dozens off some, one or two off others - it seems to depend on the variety and whether I get to the pods fast enough.

Ian - as I've hardly managed to eat any ocas for a couple of years, I'm prepared to overlook their beauty and get stuck in.

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