Growing Oca in the home garden can be an easy and rewarding experience. Originating in the Andes, Oca has been treasured for its multi-colored tubers, abundant production, and as a key source of beneficial nutrients. This tuber continues to be appreciated in the culinary community for its flavor and versatility. Oca is sensitive to frost but can be grown as an annual and stored like a potato in most northern climates. Although fairly easy to cultivate, there are a few tips to help create successful growth and abundant harvests.
1. Plant in well draining soil that is unamended and low in Nitrogen. Oca is not a fan of super heavy clay soils, plus added nitrogen can produce lush vegetative growth but fewer tubers. Planting in soil with good drainage will help create a favorable environment for the tubers to grow best.
2. Oca grows well in aerated or recently tilled soil. A hardpan or soil pan approximately 1 foot down or so can actually help the plant produce more tubers just as it does with other tubers.
3. Establish in a location with partial sun. We’ve found that underneath young fruit trees, where there’s some overhead shade but still a fair bit of sunlight peeking through, to be ideal. Hailing from higher elevations near the equator, Oca prefers a mild climate but has adapted well to even our hottest summers. Oca also makes a great weed suppressing ground cover!
4. Plant anytime after all danger of frost has past. Oca develops best in warmer soil so be sure to plant during a timeframe where warmer weather raises the soil temperatures a bit. The tubers can be stored in a refrigerator or frost-free garage over winter until spring.
5. Space at least 3 feet apart – Spacing is key to help increase yield, so ensuring there is enough space for the tubers to grow will allow for greater yields. Once spacing is established Oca can then be planted at least 2-3 inches down into the soil.
6. Harvest after the first frost – Oca is typically harvested between mid-November to mid-December, however it is best to wait as long as possible once the cold weather sets in to ensure the tubers are fully developed with optimal flavor. Oca is more cold hardy than other Andean tubers but can still turn to mush if it goes through a very hard freeze. Although, many years we’ve seen it survive all winter and continue growing the following spring if a tuber was forgotten about or left in the soil.
7. All parts of the plant can be enjoyed! – The leaves of the Oca plant can be enjoyed as a nice addition to salads or fresh vegetable dishes and the tubers can be eaten raw or cooked.
At OGW we offer a diversity of food plants and their companions from around the world. We offer unique and rare fruit and nut trees, shrubs, and vines. We've been sharing our passion for edible plants and organic gardening since 1994. We are a family owned and operated nursery in Portland Oregon. We ship our seeds & plants to all 50 states. At our retail garden center we offer seasonal fruit tasting, preservation and plant care classes as well as hold events in the community. We support local food sovereignty- grow your own One Green World!