Saturday 3 January 2009

Bleak Midwinter


It's cold, bum numbingly cold and it's been like it now for nearly two weeks. The forecast suggests it will continue to be this cold until at least the middle of next week and even then, it won't be much better.

Which is a bit of a blow because three weeks ago, although it was a bit chilly, the soil was soft but I only had time to lift a tiny proportion of the late Andean crops. I expected to be able to collect the rest during the xmas break.

I've barely been able to get a fork into the soil because the top three inches are frozen solid. Which means the garlic has missed its deadline and the precious unusual tubers of the oca and ulluco may have become write offs.

However, in desperation I've hacked my way into the frozen wastes and extracted a handful of the ulluco. The main crop of oca may have been lost entirely as mice have laid waste to the whites in the back garden and the soil in the open plot by the field has resisted my every attempt to breach it.

ulluco crop 2008

This picture shows the tubers I hope are free from frost damage and will survive to become next year's seed tubers. By luck it looks like all three possible 'varieties' are gathered, the plain(ish) yellow, the orange with pink spots and the yellow and pink striped but really there doesn't seem to be an awful lot of difference in the colours and it might just be natural variation.

Information about yield and performance is therefore somewhat restricted but the most important test, the edibility quotient if you like, has been performed. We tried a few tubers sliced into a chilli bean dish and they were quite good. Lovely crisp texture, slightly earthy taste but it grows on you.

I've left the rest of the plants in the ground in the hope that the deeper tubers will survive and come up as volunteers next year. It seemed safer to let them take a chance in the warm underground than risk damaging them with a fork or thawing them too quickly and inducing rot.


It's very beautiful here but we are beginning to hope for some warmer weather soon, before all the wood stocks run out.


joker the lurcher said...

i hope it warms up for you soon - it felt slightly warmer here once it got dark and a bit of a wind came up but it may just be wishful thinking!

Jeremy said...

I had a more greeny-purple type too, in addition to those you show. Maybe you can look out for that. and I agree, they are delicious.

Rhizowen said...

I am interested to hear you have had quite a lot of success with Ulluco in Normandy. One of the biggest problems is that all the stocks I have come across are heavily infected with viruses and this has a detrimental effect on the yield. That said, one of the varieties that myself and Ben Gabel of Real Seeds has been growing "Cusco Market" has given good yields - Ben reports up to 2.5 kilos per plant in Wales.

I've just successfully bred some new Ocas - you may want to read about it on my blog:

Catofstripes said...

Hi Rhizowen,

To be honest I'm not sure what the yields would have been because I mistimed the harvest and haven't been able to recover the crop from the permafrost! It's my intention to have a go at micropropagation to try make some virus clean plants but as I've never done this before it's a bit of a steep learning curve.

The tubers I planted came from Realseeds and included a few Cusco Market. However, although crops might be light there will probably be enough in a normal season for our purposes. I also tried some of the leaves during the summer which is another way of taking a harvest. It's all to do with sustenance for us and not so much for marketing.

I'll pop over to your blog now.