Oca Sunrise Potatoes
Inventory, lb : 0
Sunrise oca looks strikingly similar in shape to that of the fingerling potato. Small and cylindrical they grow on average to be between 2 and 6 inches in length. Their waxy skin is lined with vertical indentations and petite eyes and showcases their namesake hue of vibrant yellow. Immediately post-harvest Sunrise oca will offer a tangy, slightly sour flavor and crisp texture. If left to sit in the sun for a week the oxalic acid content of the Sunrise oca will start to breakdown and glucose levels will rise giving them a much sweeter taste and starchier texture, a process known as “hardening.” When cooked the Sunrise oca will offer a sweet and nutty flavor with a texture reminiscent of cooked potato or winter squash. In addition to the tuber the leaves, shoots and stems of the Sunrise oca are edible and have a flavor reminiscent of sorrel with nuances of lemon.
In locations that experience harsh winters, Sunrise oca should be harvested in the fall, in milder climates they can be harvested in the winter and even spring months.
The Sunrise oca, botanically classified as part of Oxalis tuberosa is a member of the Oxalidaceae family along with rhubarb, spinach, sorrel, and garlic. Though it resembles one appearance wise botanically speaking the Sunrise oca is not a potato, rather a perennial South American tuber of the wood sorrel family. Also spelled ocha, oca tubers are one of the most agriculturally important foods in their native home of Peru and Bolivia, second only to the potato. Oca tubers can be found in a variety of different colors including yellow, cream, red, pink, purple, and orange. Some yellow varieties are said to offer a sweeter flavor. While the oca has experienced a small degree of popularity in Europe and the United States, it is in New Zealand where it has found its greatest modern commercial success. The oca is grown so extensively in New Zealand today that they have come to be known by many as New Zealand yams.
Sunrise oca tubers nutritionally are similar to potato and offer carbohydrates and dietary fiber. They also contain some vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C, amino acids and iron as well as a small amount of phosphorus, riboflavin, and niacin. Yellow varieties such as Sunrise also offer carotenoids which are not only responsible for their yellow color but offer antioxidants as well. Similar to spinach and rhubarb Sunrise oca tubers contain oxalic acid which is responsible for their slightly sour flavor. The yellow Sunrise oca is believed to offer the lowest levels though when compared to red and orange types. For some people that have a sensitivity to it, large amounts of oxalic acid can cause a tingling feeling in the mouth and interfere with calcium absorption. Exposing the oca to sunlight for several days after harvesting can lower the oxalic acid content by converting the acids to sugar. Additionally, since oxalates tend to be water soluble simply boiling or steaming the oca can lower the levels too. Those that typically have an allergic response to spinach or rhubarb should avoid oca or consult their doctor before consuming.
Sunrise oca can be used in a fashion similar to that of potatoes and other root vegetables, however unlike potatoes they can also be consumed raw. Raw Sunrise oca can be used without peeling and can be sliced or grated and added to salads and sandwiches, or pickled as a condiment. Depending upon what application you wish to use raw oca in it can either be used when first harvested for a sweet-tart flavor or it can be aged in the sunshine for a week for a sweeter flavor. Sunrise oca can also be used in cooked applications and can be roasted, baked, boiled, steamed or deep fried. Roasted oca or boiled and mashed oca makes an excellent side dish. Sliced and cooked they can be used in lieu of potato in warm or cold salads. Use oca in soups, stews and curries to add substance and texture. Yellow varieties of oca such as the Sunrise tend to be sweeter in flavor and can be candied, dried and eaten like dried fruit, or used to make jams and marmalade. In addition to the Sunrise oca tuber the shoots and leaves of the plant can be used as well, both in salads and as a cooking green and will impart a tart lemon flavor similar to that of sorrel. To store, keep Sunrise oca away from direct sunlight in a cool and dry location.
The Aymara people of the Andes refer to the yellow-hued oca as q’ellu apilla. During the first month or two of oca season vendors popularly sell hot baked oca on the streets of many Peruvian cities. In Pisac, Peru oca are commonly frozen, allowed to dry in the sunshine then ground down to make a sweet flour used in desserts such as such as mazamorra pudding. In the 1800’s the red oca was preferred over the yellow in Peru both for flavor reasons and for its superior properties as an alimentary plant. Introduced to England and France in the 1830s as South American wood sorrel it was seen mostly as a novelty vegetable and for a short time dinner parties were thrown to showcase the unique tuber. Despite this the oca failed to gain popularity in Europe and it was not until their arrival in New Zealand that they would catch on as a food source with the same fervor as they had in South America. Today in New Zealand the oca is most popularly served alongside roast lamb.
The oca tuber is a decedent of two wild forms of ancient oca native to northern Bolivia and central Peru and is believed to predate the Incas. Over the past 1,000 years, the oca has undergone extensive genetic alteration as a result of human intervention and ongoing selection. Even pre-Incan people are documented to have bred them to be less day length sensitive and lowered the acid content slightly. Years of this has resulted in thousands of South America varieties, a documentation of which can be found in Cusco, Peru and is known as “The Coleccion de Ocas.” The oca made its way to Mexico in the 1700’s, to Europe and France in the 1830’s and finally to New Zealand in 1860. The day length sensitivity of Sunrise oca means they will only develop tubers once there are 12 hours or less of daylight exposure a day. The tubers are also frost sensitive so be sure to keep them protected should frost arrive prior to harvesting. Sunrise oca have a growth style similar to that of potatoes with the tubers of the plant supporting the above ground stems, shoots, and leaves. Typically these above ground plants will die back around the same time that the Sunrise oca is ready for harvest.
Recipes that include Oca Sunrise Potatoes. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Simmer Stock||Oca Salad with Capers and Cornichons|
|Permaculture||Warm Oca Salad|
|Bake Me Away||New Zealand Yams|
|He Needs Food||New Zealand Yam & Brussels Sprout Gratin|