Alison Tindale is a blogger and plant breeder, running a small nursery, Backyard Larder, where she propagates and sells perennial vegetables for forest and permaculture gardens. She’s been with the Guild since the beginning, growing Ocabreeder’s tubers and creating her own varieties for the project. She wrote this guest blog to explain how her first new oca was born.
In 2014 I planted some small oca tubers, a mixture of tubers I’d grown the year before, had been given or acquired in swaps. I wanted to get a good crop of tubers. They didn’t grow particularly well (I’m not sure why, possibly a claggy soil problem) but they did flower a bit. Asking for cultural advice but not thinking about the flowers I posted a picture of the plants on Radix Root Crops Facebook group. “Flowers mean seeds!” came back. Well I’d had no intention of growing oca from seeds. Beware! There are ‘seedy’ individuals lurking on the internet just waiting to ensnare innocent vegetable gardeners in their own addiction! ‘You can grow your own unique variety,’ they tell you, and flattered, you tumble unaware into a life of – well, of some frustration, but also of infinite interest and fascination actually!
Not many more flowers appeared but I did try a bit of hand-pollination (basically just rubbing the reproductive parts of two flowers together) and ended up with 25 seeds which I sowed in a pot in the greenhouse the following April (2015). Nothing until June when, at last, a tiny stout little seedling appeared. Owen posted a photo on Facebook so I could confirm that it was oca.
It took a few more days until I could make out some trifoliate foliage. If I remember rightly, another seedling appeared after a few days but died. So I had low germination success but at least there was one survivor which grew on all year in my rather well-ventilated greenhouse – during which time I potted it on twice.
At first potting in August.
After second potting in September
I spied mini-tubers on the plant in October…
and brought the pot home to turn it out in December….
A good selection of mini-tubers
The tubers were washed and dried and received an official Guild of Oca Breeders number: GOB150001-AT!
Following instructions from the guild I stored the tubers in damp vermiculite in the fridge:
And yesterday I potted some of them up and took them up to my allotment to be grown on in the greenhouse until the last frosts.
Given GOB150001-AT’s start in life maybe it has lucky genes. I’m looking forward to seeing how it gets on in 2016, whether it flowers and what the tubers are like in size and taste etcetera. (Meanwhile I’m off in search of my next plant breeding fix!)