Peace Seeds, a local seed company, has an interesting selection of unusual root crops. After enjoying oca (Oxalis tuberosa) last year, we bought some more and this year also planted some mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum).
Oca is closely related to wood sorrel, and indeed the tops look quite a bit like a weed. The tubers develop in October, and it is the last root crop to be ready to dig, around Thanksgiving here. The texture is potato-like both raw and cooked, but it has a tart flavor somewhat reminiscent of rhubarb. Delicious when roasted in a citrus-based sauce!
Mashua is related to nasturtiums, has beautiful vining foliage, and is little-cultivated outside of the Andes. Aside from its food value it has a reputation as an “anaphrodisiac.” According to Wikipedia:
It has been recorded by the Spanish chronicler Cobo that mashua was fed to their armies by the Inca Emperors, “that they should forget their wives”. Indeed, studies of male rats fed on mashua tubers have shown a 45% drop in testosterone levels.
We only have about a pound, so hopefully it won’t have any unwanted consequences…