OCAsional Update 3) Blow the Wind Southerly

To the fans of Kathleen Ferrier, the Lancashire lass with the moving contralto voice and sadly curtailed life, my apologies - follow this link for starters.

No, I'm actually referring to the mild airflow that has been caressing these shores of late. In truth, it's more of a south westerly blowing up from the Caribbean, courtesy of the Gulf Stream. After a nip of frost a couple of weeks ago, which left the yacon tops scorched and made me cover the ocas up with fleece, it's been remarkably balmy of late. So, a bit like "Klever Kaff" Ferrier, who hoped that a southerly wind would bring her sailor lover back home, I too am keen to see the winds bring us that blessed grey, drizzly, gusty weather for a little longer. I want to get more oca pods ripe and maybe obtain my first ever outdoor crop of mashua seeds.

You could say it's unseasonably warm, but glancing through the pages of "The Wrong Kind of Snow" will surely convince you to expect the unexpected. Due to a peculiar accident of geography we're jammed below four competing air masses that slug it out in a non-stop free-for-all-fight: there's a helluva heavenly struggle going on up there. Britain is the world capital of weather and here in Cornwall, we're pretty much in the downtown district. Still, at the moment the gods are smiling: the wind and rain comes blasting through, followed by brief intermezzos of sunshine and the oca pods live on to swell for a few extra days. Mustn't grumble.

I've managed to obtain a few seeds from Frank van Keirsbilck's very own Belgian-bred oca, Pink Dragon. So we're now looking at a potential second generation of European varieties, assuming the seeds germinate. I am intending to repatriate them when the harvest is all in so that Frank can repeat his success with Pink Dragon's offspring.

Frank had previously mentioned that Pink Dragon was particularly floriferous. The picture below, which I took recently, seems to support his assertion:

I've plucked a few pods from various oca plants and brought them indoors in the hope that they'll ripen faster. It's mild out there, yes, but not exactly warm. Plus I don't want the pods to be rattled loose or blown open by the next storm that heads this way. I've put them in a small 'vase", with water and I'm hoping they'll ripen.

So I now have a little autumn pod arrangement gracing the table. I picked pods which looked reasonably mature. Due to their penchant for casting themselves into the void at inopportune moments, I've got them safely imprisoned behind bars, or rather glass:

Ocabana isn't a patch on ikebana in terms of composition and I'm not expecting any prizes in any flower shows, but this arrangement has allowed me to study the pods a little more closely at my leisure. I had already noticed that a couple of pods on RX0901 and RX0924 had reared their heads in the last few days before releasing their volleys of seeds. That was outdoors and I caught them in the nick of time. It now seems that this same "if you've got it, flaunt it" tendency may be occurring in other individuals. Since their incarceration, several of the trapped pods have pointed skywards and then hurled their seeds in vain against the glass. Gotcha. You may be able to make out one or two seeds in the above picture. At least you can see some pods beginning to lift their necks, just like an alpaca does before spitting.

If I can find a white sheet and sufficient floor space, I think I'll try a little experiment to see how far the seeds are actually thrown. I suppose I ought to add non-shattering to the list of desirable characteristics to select for. Let's get the harvest home first.


Mybighair said…
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Mybighair said…
I think I have pod envy.

I have a least 4 varieties of oca now, but so far only one in flower, so no seed for me this year. I'll have to track down a few more varieties and hope for better luck next year.

Have to say, I'm looking forward to seeing the tubers of your baby's. It'll be interesting to see what variation there is in colour, shape and size.

Must be quite an exiting time for you; have you peeked yet?
Rhizowen said…
Hi Mybighair

Call me superstitious, but I haven't yet peeked, although I'm told I peaked years ago.

As regards suitable varieties, the ones that have flowered best for me have been the orange and white ones available from Real Seeds and one I got called "Khusioka", which looks very similar to one which is called "Amarillo". Frank's "Pink Dragon" seems to be a good flower producer too. He tells me that one called "Mexican Red" also flowered well for him this year. If and when you get flowers, have a look and see which flower morphs you've got. Some of my seedlings have flowered well, others haven't done so at all. There's probably some sort of genetic component to all this - here's hoping that early flowering and tuber yields are linked. Do you have an email address?
Mybighair said…
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Mybighair said…
I have an email address, but best not post it here. You can find me on HomeGrownGoodness under the same name (mybighair) and PM me. I'll pass you my email from there.

I have the real seeds tubers and think it's the white one that's flowering. The only flower type I've had up until now was mid styled.

Another patch of Oca flowered for the first time yesterday. It was short styled, so I made the cross but don't think it'll have time to ripen.

I'd like to track down some named varieties but it's easier said than done.

your not alone in wondering if early flowering is linked to earlier tuber formation. People have said that the whites are better producers, and they appear to flower much earlier than the reds and pinks so maybe there is something to it.

There is definitely a lot more to be learned where Oca is concerned.

04 November 2009 14:11