Growing New Zealand Yams / Oca

Back in November on my scavenger hunt to Taranaki, I found some oca (Oxalis tuberosa) tubers sprouting. I had never seen them growing before, didn’t know a thing about them other than how tasty the little blighters are, but jumped in anyway and bought a couple of punnets. I had a newly-developed bed and so popped them in there until I worked out what to do with them. It’s only taken about six weeks, but finally I’m catching up on just what makes a little oca grow.

I’ve always known oca as yams, and it does turn out that they are quite widely known as New Zealand yams. There’s always a been a bit of confusion around yams, sweet potatoes and if you add oca into the mix it all just gets crazy. I’ll leave The Phytophactor to sort out the other yammy issues. Our oca friends originated in the Peruvian highlands, didn’t have a lot of success in Europe but made their way to Aotearoa, probably at the turn of the 20th century and became a bit of a hit.

The plants are clover-like on top and the roots are like little fat fingers 40-200mm long. Reddish/pink is the usual colour, but they also come in yellow, white, or purple. They adapt well to poor growing conditions and do well in silty loams.

Growing oca in your garden in New Zealand

In New Zealand, oca are planted in November (so I was right on time). About February, when the foliage is about 30cm high, the oca are mounded up. In mid-March the yellow flowers appear and the tuber production begins. Frosts will cause the foliage to die down, just like potatoes. Digging begins in May and goes right through until September.

US visitors may find this link very useful in their quest for oca growing. UK visitors and those wanting more good information should check out Growing Oca.

Eating oca – yammy goodness

When we were kids, Mum would roast oca just like potatoes and we loved them. She would also add them to our stir-fries. They can be sliced and grated into salads or coleslaws. I think they’re delicious and can’t wait to experiment with new recipes for my little earthen beauties.

Oca growing resources

Ian Pearson’s Growing Oca site

Radix Root Crop Research and Ruminations

Photo by the lovely CalamitySue.


9 Responses to “Growing New Zealand Yams / Oca”

  1. January 20, 2010 at 8:14 am

    RE: New Zealand yam.
    Oh no, not more name confusion, a not-a-yam tuber with a not-native-to-this-country name. Next it’ll be a kiwi yam.

  2. 2 bruce
    June 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    I have got some Yams and will try not to eat them all so i can try to grow some just wondering the best way to store them

  3. 3 Janice
    August 27, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Hi all – I am wondering what requirements are needed to grow yams successfully in Brisbane OZ ? Any help greatly appreciated.


  4. 4 Linda
    September 5, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I have stored them successfully in heavy brown paper bags, in a cool, dry, dark place. I’ll bring them out in about mid-October to start shoots, as I do with potatoes earlier. Baked at about 150 deg C, with a little butter and honey. Bliss! Even vege-reluctant little ones like them.

  5. September 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    That sounds yum. Thanks Linda for the advice. I plan to take my yamming a bit more seriously this and work on producing a lot of good-sized tubers. Previous yields have been a bit on the tiny side, generally through lack of effort on my part

  6. November 11, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    You might be interested in trying to breed better varieties – that’s what I’ve been attempting. If you have plants with different flower types, it’s actually not too difficult to get seeds.

  7. November 14, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks so much for stopping by. Your site is such a fantastic resource, so I’m going to pop your URL in the original post. About to start reading Carol Deppe’s Breeding book to get a better handle on all of this.

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