Oca: Seedlings update

Our oca seedlings, sown from this year’s seeds, continue to grow at their own paces. These 53 seedlings (9 have disappeared, probably down a slug’s gullet, since the last update) all resulted from two August sowings and were all grown under the same conditions. Some are still tiny plants with only two or three sets of true leaves, while others have grown to good size and have begun to produce tubers.

53 oca seedlings in late November

The largest plants have already yielded a handful of tubers, which I have pulled as they formed at the surface.  The largest has a pale yellow tuber with pink eyes and the second largest has a pink tuber with pink eyes.  I won’t harvest any more tubers from them until they are done growing.  I’m not sure how long they will continue to grow.  I understand that oca is really an annual plant, in that it regrows each year from newly formed tubers, not from the same root system.  So, I expect that means that the plants that have formed tubers will die back naturally at some point.  As long as I don’t forget and leave them out on a frosty night, I guess I’ll find out at what point that occurs.

The bigger question in my mind is what will happen to the very slow growing and tiny plants that (I assume) have yet to form tubers.  Will I be able to just grow them indoors through the winter and plant them out in the spring?  Will they perhaps die back when the day length begins to increase again and leave me with nothing?  Is this slow growth a characteristic of the plant that will continue as it reaches larger sizes and, if so, should I be selecting against it by eliminating these plants?  There is only one way to find out and that is to wait and see what happens.

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