How to Grow Oca

Learn how to grow oca. Oca is a highly productive perennial plant with waxy, brightly colored tubers that are perfect as a season-extending crop. It is an excellent source of carbohydrates, phosphorus and iron, as well as essential amino acids that promote the health and proper function of muscles, organs, nails, hair, skin and more.


| August/September 2007



Oca’s brightly colored tubers are versatile in the kitchen.

Oca’s brightly colored tubers are versatile in the kitchen.


Photo by Rob Cardillo

Learn how to grow oca and enjoy this high energy and nutritious food of the ancient Incas. Oca tubers come in many sizes and colors. Add oca’s flowers and shamrock-shaped leaves to salads. You can find oca in markets that specialize in obscure Latin American ingredients.

Cooking With Oca

Oca Con Salsa Picante Recipe

Learn How to Grow Oca

Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) is a long-ignored South American tuber that is now beginning to show up in markets that specialize in unusual Latin American ingredients. Oca (also spelled ocha) is a highly productive perennial plant with waxy, brightly colored tubers that are perfect as a season-extending crop — they’re best harvested from the garden or greenhouse in late December or early January. In its native lands of Bolivia and Peru, oca is second only to the potato in agricultural importance. It is an excellent source of carbohydrates, phosphorus and iron, as well as essential amino acids that promote the health and proper function of muscles, organs, nails, hair, skin and more.

It’s hard to generalize about oca’s flavor and culinary attributes, because there are so many kinds: Some are best eaten raw; others are best boiled, baked or steamed. Sun-dried oca can be eaten like dried figs or stewed like fruit. Oca tubers also can be grilled, fried or candied like sweet potatoes. As for flavor, they vary from potatolike, to chestnut-sweet, to apple and celery. ‘Apricot,’ a new variety from New Zealand, is similar in taste to its namesake. Oca’s cloverlike leaves and yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers are edible and make great additions to salads.

Actually, oca is not new to horticulturists — it was introduced to England, the United States and France as a novelty during the 1830s. Known as “South American wood sorrel” (it’s a cousin of the common wood sorrel), it caused such a stir that enthusiasts held oca parties where entire meals were constructed around these fascinating tubers.

Its most common name is oca, the Spanish spelling thought to be derived from oqa, a word from the Quechua language indigenous to the Andean region and spoken by the Incas. However, in many parts of South America, other names such as quiba, hibias, timbo, apilla and even papa roja (“red potato”) are common, so reading regional cookbooks can be challenging unless you have a South American dialect dictionary on hand.

billw
12/8/2013 4:05:50 PM

Oca can be used as a substitute in almost any recipe that calls for either potatoes or carrots. Really, almost any root vegetable recipe can be adapted, but those are particularly good matches. Oca doesn't mash all that well, in my opinion, although some people disagree. There is no need to invent new recipes for oca. In the Andes, it is usually eaten pretty simply - boiled, baked, or roasted with meat. For more information about oca suppliers in North America, see this page: http://wettingthebeds.cultivariable.com/2013/06/oca-how-when-and-where-to-buy.html


windycitynupe
8/26/2013 2:13:35 AM

Does anyone have recipes for Oca? Single dad of a 2 y/o and looking for healthy foods?


adam blake_2
2/8/2010 1:13:27 PM

I have been growing oca in Washington state for a few years now and love it. It is quite a decorative plant for the garden and fun to eat. More info available at http://www.notspuds.com


ami_1
9/25/2008 2:16:58 AM

Oca is a regular vegetable for purchase over the winter months here in New Zealand supermarkets.And are SO easy to grow. Leave some to sprout (bit like seed potatoes), plant over Spring and wait... In NZ Oca (or Yams, we call them) are left in the ground until at least the first frost, then lifted as required. they are fine left in frosty soil till needed in the kitchen. Then usually roasted -they go well with roast chicken. Though not as rampant as Jerusalem Artichokes if left in the ground they do multiply well year to year. I've just dug some out of my garden, while preparing it for spring planting. Source some for your garden,they'll be one of your favourite vegetable. They'd be a good veg for kids to grow as when lifting for the garden they look like big, bright bugs...


john_121
8/8/2007 2:55:44 PM

I was brought up on what you call OCA, we in Peru call it "Olluquito" and in Bolivia "Papa Liza" (skinless potato. My favorite dish is Olluquito con Charqui (same as "jerque" but made fro llama meat) and with a lot of peppers. I can send you the recipe for a real "Olluquito". Very simple to make and it uis in bushels at the supper market two blocks from my apartment in San Isidro, Lima, Peru. I'll even go as far as taking a foto of the Ollucos (Ocu) in the raw and after a delicious dish. I eat it at least once a week.






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