They're a motley bunch (the ocas I mean), mainly ones I've grown from seed, plus a few old favourites and others raised by Frank van Keisbilck and Debs & Carl Legge. I thought there were about 120 of them, but it turns out there were 133. This probably makes this the most biodiverse patch of oca in the whole of the Tamar Valley. And there's still the small matter of a few more as-yet uncatalogued tubers sitting outside my back door - the fruits (or should I say roots?) of the volunteer seedlings of 2012. The grand total must therefore be approaching 150. This is far too few to really get oca breeding off to a flying start, even though I struggle (read: fail) to maintain them properly and keep accurate records. If some philanthropist with a horticultural bent would like to support my efforts, I'm open to offers; I would certainly be delighted to adopt a more systematic approach to record keeping and give oca breeding the attention it so richly deserves.
I'm intending to lift all the varieties together in the autumn, but earlier than usual, to see whether any of them show signs of precocious tuberisation. I keep saying I'll do this every year and then I don't manage it. I'm pretty sure I've come up with various other excuses to over the years, some of which may even have been genuine. I'm blaming my failure to do so last year on the very wet weather. When I finally got around to harvesting the 2012 crop, scenes reminiscent of the Somme ensued. Intellectually I knew that I wanted a day-neutral oca, now I know it in a damp, numb-fingered and mud-caked sort of a way - I'm not even sure that I've got the mud out from under my fingernails yet. No, the fact is, we need varieties that tuberise at a sensible time of year. The simplest and possibly best way, to my mind at least, is to sow thousands of seeds and select the best plants for further evaluation: my efforts are just the beginning of the beginning as far as I'm concerned.
|What 133 oca tubers look like planted in a field.|