Here are my ocas - the great, great, great, great grandchildren of the original varieties. They're still going strong, or at least they appear to be if the above image is to be believed. So what effect has being Generation Six had on my charges?
But before all that, an extensive caveat. I'd like to be able to say that I've made a significant breakthrough in breeding a ravishingly beautiful, delicious, dayneutral oca. Maybe I have, but due to conflicting pressures and responsibilities, I haven't been been able to devote anything like enough time to the methodical recording of tuber yields. Something or other has got in the way every time - frost damage, voles, vine weevils, midnight ambulance rides to hospital - that kind of thing. That and the more humdrum exigencies of earning money.
Proper breeders are supposed to apply some sort of directional selection pressure to their charges. I've done very little of this, I must confess. There are two reasons: firstly I started with only a few clones and I thought it wise to conserve as much variation as possible before culling ruthlessly.
Secondly, I'm a softie at heart and don't like to institute a reign of terror on my charges - I'm not Ivan the Terrible, I'm Rhizowen the lily-livered.
- Oca seedlings are variable - leaf, stem, and tuber colour, pubescence, height, you name it, it varies.
- Oca seedlings generally flower much more readily than commercially available varieties.
- There are many more of the short and mid-styled varieties than long styled ones.
- Oca seeds germinate fairly easily and grow quite fast; they can go from seed to seed outside in one season here in Cornwall.
- Tubers from oca seedlings are perfectly edible and not always tiny, knobbly and misshapen.
- Oca pods require careful management - when they pop, those seeds don't stop.
- Corollary of the above - oca volunteers will appear where you probably don't want them.
- Voles and other rodents love to eat oca tubers.
- Unlike the voles, I hate harvesting oca tubers in the late autumn when our soil is cold, sticky and squelchy.
Bearing in mind that I started with so few varieties, the overriding question is this:
Until such time as the above dream team materialises, I will ponder and ruminate. So here's my final question, which neither Bible scholars nor oca breeders have yet been able to answer definitively: will the mistakes of the "breeder" be visited unto the seventh generation? I'll let you know - next year.