Thursday, 16 April 2015
Saving yacon over winter and wapato
It's very hard getting back into this. Asparagus from the garden, just enough for my tea tonight (along with some other things, I'm not wasting away at all). The patch is struggling with weeds as usual and the seed raised plants rather variable. If I trusted myself more I'd invest in a clutch of commercially prepared roots next autumn, it takes too long to bring them up from seed and even for just the two of us we need a lot more plants to make a few good meals each spring. But, I'm not sure it would be economic without a gardener to set to the weeding or a big change in my self discipline.
And so to Yacon. People sometimes have difficulty in overwintering the parts of the plant that form new growth in the spring. I've failed myself but last year I tried two methods and they were both successful. The simplest and easiest thing to do is to lift a plant comparatively early - yacon aren't slow to form tubers like oca or ulluco so you will still get a reasonably harvest from a plant lifted in mid to late October. Clean it up a bit and pot it in spent compost in a pot just big enough. There will still be a bit of green top growth so trim it back to a few inches. Keep the pot very slightly damp at about 10C. Light isn't too important so a garage window or warm shed will probably do, I keep ours in an unheated room in the house but our walls are thick and the temperature doesn't vary much. One plant preserved like this should make several in the spring when divided into growing points and potted up.
Alternatively wait until frost has killed the top growth but don't wait too long. Take up the plants, remove the storage tubers, shake off the dirt and keep the crowns just as they are until the spring. Again, it's the temperature that's important. Too warm and the roots will dry and die but too cold and they die from that instead. In the spring clean away the dead and dry roots and split the crown into growing tips. Pot and keep warm and lightly moist until they sprout. Plant out in the usual way.
A few weeks ago Rhizowen was kind enough to send me some of his seedling wapato tubers. We have newly cleared the quite extensive water works around the house and I was hoping to be able to introduce them straight into the pond and stream margins but the lovely tidy environment has attracted attention of a less welcome sort and the blasted coypu is back, as can be seen from the rather blurry picture above. He (or she) is currently enjoying the watercress and other water plants and a lingering doubt about liver flukes leaves me fairly content with this but it does mean I dare not introduce the wapato or indeed put the waterlilies back in position after they were moved during the works.
So for the moment they've been potted into holding pots and are living in the baby bath bought for my son just before his birth 33 years ago... how little I could have imagined that then! I've no idea what I'll do when they start to outgrow this nursery bed, it's not like I'll shoot the wretched creature but I'm at a loss how to encourage it to move away.
By the way, if you interested in odd Andean vegetables take a look at the Oca Breeders Guild where crowd sourcing is being used to speed up development of day length neutral oca varieties suitable for cultivation in Europe and North America.