Winter Harvest: Oca

Today was one of those rare winter days, the sky a beautiful clear blue, the sun bright and warm, only a light breeze coming in across the bay and there are signs of an approaching spring.  A few of the blueberry bushes are starting to flower and the bulbs in the orchard that used to flower in September are already opening up.

The winter garden is quite bare, a lone bee braves the winter sunshine while I wander through the garden to gather a few vegetables for tonights dinner.

fresh winter vegetables
A winter harvest; asian greens, carrots, spring onion tops and Oca

Oca is another vegetable that originated from high up in the Andean Mountains where it is grown similarly to potatoes and is still a staple in the diets of Bolivian and Peruvian people who have farmed Oca for millennia.

The tubers, depending on the variety can vary from white through to deep red, they have a slightly lemony flavour and can be cooked or used raw.  Oca is jam-packed with nutrition, just half a cup of Oca contains  40 milligrams of vitamin C, low in calories it has high amounts of iron, zinc and B12 as well as calcium and flavonoids, it has plenty of fibre and essential amino acids, the elements necessary for the function and health of organs, skin, hair, nails and muscles.

No need to peel this great little vegetable, just wash the Oca before use.  Oca is a great addition to stir-fry dishes and can be used in place of water chestnuts, they retain the crunch factor of water chestnuts when lightly fried. Oca can be baked, fried, boiled, pickled and sliced or grated in salads.

Baked Oca

  • pre heat your oven to 175 c.
  • wash and dry the oca.
  • place in a lightly oiled baking pan.
  • sprinkle with fresh ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • drizzle good quality garlic infused olive oil and mix through.
  • bake for 45 mins or until tender and browned.
  • serve as a side dish topped with chopped fresh chives.

Oca is also known as the  New Zealand Yam, it is easy to grow and the leaves and stems can also be used in soups, salads and stir-fry.

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