Last year, I managed to grow Oxalis tuberosa in the moderate hot summers and frosty falls of the Ottawa Valley. Oca doesn't like that. It likes mild zones with lots of misty cool weather, or so I am lead to believe by venerable growers like Radix and Cultivariable. You'll note that both of these growers are near the ocean with its moderating forces.
I do also know a grower on Niagra-on-the-lake that gets a sizeable crop as early as October. Quite frankily, my own oca laugh at the idea but I've seen photographic proof. Another intrepid participant in the N-oca-rthern experiment lives in rural Quebec and ripped hers out of the ground in October as well with some success. Last year, a Manitoba gardener created a heated oca hut for his and got a good crop. There are also some growers in Australia such as Garden Larder who are working at heat adaption. The list of oca-philes is growing beyond its comfort zone.
This year I had more material to work with. Some seed grown tubers from last year, a group of heritage varieties gifted to me and more seed from Cultivariable. I also joined The Guild of Oca Breeders, more as their confused Canadian cheerleader than anything else at this point.
Pictures from October 29 - Heritage Row
My hope was not only to improve my oca growing skills but also to grow out the heritage varieties to supply at least a few more Canadians with these precious goods.
In total, I had five rows of oca taking up productive space on my acreage. Did the oca thank me? In a matter of speaking.
Row 1 were tubers grow out from seed last year and planted in a heavily mulched area. Verdict: eaten by slugs. Thankfully back up Row 2 was being grown by Patricia + some of her own seed grown ones. She got a good handful of small pinkies, the best yielders from 2014. Row 3 was the heritage row along with some tubers from a Manitoba grow out. These were planted in wood mulch. This moderated the temperature well so initial growth was robust. However, it also contributed to stem dieback, the only real problem (besides critters eating them) that seems to plague them outside of their homeland. After the stem rot came the mice so they were harvested earlier than I had wanted, at the end of October. I did get a good bevy of little tubers to send off to Canadians in more oca friendly zones, which was my intention. Row 4 was planted late proving that summer is hot for ocas here.
Which brings us to Row 5. Planted in sandy soil with a row of peas behind it. It grew well, suffered very little stem rot and was protected from frost with totes and plastic. Dug on November 16. This is early for oca. According to Cultivariable's research, 8 weeks post equinox will result in 88% of the yield. Of course, this may be different in our climate. When I have enough material, I'll have to check, but let's assume that's true. These were then harvested at just under 8 weeks post equinox.
November 16 - seed grown plants
Thoughts for 2015
I am definitely learning more about growing oca. The more I learn, the more fascinated I am. The colours and shape variations are so much fun that it really is hard to resist. Adaption for growing and setting seed in warmer, dryer environments would be advantageous along with day neutral varieties.
Goals for 2016
This year I endevoured to grow so much skirret that not only would I sell out less quickly but I would have enough to do some selection. I sourced widely for seeds which means I managed to find them in five sources. Poor Sium sisarum, forgotten by many. One of the best is La Societe des Plantes - a fellow vegetable explorer and examplary seed house who has been selecting his best plants to be seed parents. The seed was fresh and germinated readily. I found soaking followed by cold stratification worked best for pre-starting.
I sold masses of seedlings but kept aside some of the most promising so to have even better plants next year!
Today, I decided to dig up two rows. One from a German selection and some from crowded La Societe des Plantes selection.
I was looking for five characteristics:
a. healthy growth
b. healthy roots
c. large roots
d. more than one large root
e. minimal core
The first two criteria had to be met. if no other criteria were met, they were food. If two out of three were met, I replanted in a separate row for winter hardiness and further evaluation. If all five were met, there were the superstars and planted in a special bed. I will also be looking for excellent winter survival with lots of green healthy growth in the spring and a good seed set.
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.