Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Green Shoots of Recovery

This is an oft-used, or should I say over-used phrase, beloved by practitioners of that most dismal of sciences, economics.  I'm not actually referring to double dip recessions, stagflation or GDP in this instance. When I say green shoots and recovery, I mean just that. These are the newly emerging growths from one of the mauka plants I left unharvested last autumn. I could claim that this was a deliberate exploration of their ability to survive in situ, but that would be a deep tissue massaging of the facts worthy of any economist. No, I simply failed to harvest them when I had the opportunity and have been regretting it ever since.  Usually this kind of laxity ends in disaster - but not this time.  I have been scratching away at the stumps where their luxuriant growth used to be and it turns out that the cold snap we had in late winter hasn't killed them like I expected it to.  Or not all of them - the jury is still out on some of last year's seedlings, which turned this little patch of Cornwall into a secondary centre of mauka diversity of Vavilovian proportions. Maybe.  The plant shown above was looking more impressive the previous day.  The pigeons then saw fit to defoliate it, which rather reduced the dramatic effect I had been hoping for.

It's been a typically atypical spring, with unusually warm weather in March followed by unusually heavy April rains and a particularly chilly May, with a frost just last week.  Now the weather has suddenly turned hot.  Whether this is all part of the instability some claim will be the precursor to serious climate change or just another one of those periodic perturbations in the Jet Stream's trajectory, I'm not sure.  It doesn't make gardening any easier though.

Plants that can put up with this sort of thing are however, very welcome, which is one of the reasons why I am exploring the untapped potential in these root crops.

Unlike the ocas, which proved to be a real hit with the resident vole population last year, the maukas seem to have resisted rodent attack. There are clear signs of their bolt holes  emerging from the centres of the plants, but I see no evidence of gnawing.  Mauka is known to contain ribosome inactivating proteins which  have both anti-feedant and pathogen suppressing properties. Perhaps the voles recognised this and eschewed rather than chewed for a change.  Frank van Keirsbilck tells me that he lost some of his plants to rodents this winter, so this hypothesis is, at best, open to further testing.

I also failed to lift my yacons when I should have done and have been fearing the worst ever since.  I now see some new growth appearing at the base of a couple of the varieties, so it may be that, for once, I've been spared the consequences of my inactions.  Just like those as-yet unharvested yacon tubers, life is sweet sometimes.


Somewhat greener than the mauka shoots, this is one of last year's self-sown oca seedlings which escaped the voles and is poking its head up defiantly.

And this is, of course, a taleteer coming up in the potato bed.  Bean there, done that.








4 comments:

thesnailofhappiness said...

Just found your fascinating blog... as a fan of oca, I can't wait to read more...

Rhizowen said...

Thanks @thesnailofhappiness - I'm glad you find it useful. Follow my lead and you will be experiencing the same level of disappointment and frustration ;)

Bugs said...

Thanks for the update; this plant is sounding more and more promising. You'll be pleased to know that after recent "conversations" with you and rereading your blog I am itching to start messing around with seeds as well; it will probably be a couple of years before there's any real opportunity (we too are blessed with voles as well as our learning curve) but in the meantime I look forward to watching and learning...

Rhizowen said...

@Bugs - it does seem ironic that a rare and endangered crop should prove itself to be fairly easy to grow in our climate. It is also quite different in architecture from the potato analogues oca and mashua, which is one of the reasons I find it so interesting. I'm sure it will grow successfully for you too.

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