Saturday, 2 March 2013

March of the Maukas

It's March, so it must be mauka time. Not time to plant maukas as you might expect - no - time to lift them.  I didn't quite manage to accomplish this task before the torrential rains of winter took hold; the water table seemed to be lying close to or above the soil's surface for months and at one point the gate disgorged a babbling brook. As proper farmers with proper kit have experienced similar difficulties in lifting their potato crops in this area, I felt a little less humiliated by my deficiencies.

The rainy season has abated for the present, its replacement being a cold, dry, easterly wind, which has been blowing for a couple of weeks. As the ground now no longer resembles a waterlogged sponge, I thought a little bit of exploratory digging was in order, to ascertain the whereabouts and health of the mauka crop. I pulled back the fleece, which I'd draped hastily over the patch in a half-hearted attempt to protect them against the cold and took my spade and dug where the label (barely legible) suggested the first plant lay.

The first object that turned up was this decidedly impressive piece of swollen mauka stem, looking for all the world like a bloated, jaundiced witchetty grub. It's a chunk of CIP208001, my original variety which I grew from seed obtained from Centro Internacional de la Papa some years ago; coincidentally this was the most expensive seed I have ever purchased, mainly due to the very low viability they showed.  But I don't regret the expense and the 15 year wait: I finally have a mauka stem like the ones in the books.

I should point out that this wonder worm represents two season's growth - I also failed to harvest the plants at the end of 2011. A bit more digging yielded up this collection of pieces. Not bad, all things considered.

Mauka continues to impress me with its tenaciousness and good behaviour; I really ought to taste check it again to see whether I still like it as much as I did previously.  It seems probable that there will be enough for a proper meal of mauka if the yields from this plant are anything to go by - one up another ten to go.


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