New Zealand in the Garden

So remember in September when I chitted the oca? Well, after that exhausting exercise, I planted it in an unregarded corner next to the compost bins, where it got a little water, but not any more care than that (well, other than being planted in lovely, left over compost).

Oca (or New Zealand yam) is part of the oxalis family, most of which are noxious weeds in Australia. But the yam is the edible silver lining of the oxalis grey cloud. Pink and wrinkly, it reminds me of babies' toes.

Once the first frost has killed off the plant, the underground tubers (or babies' toes) are ready to be harvested. Here are the frost-deadened tendrils...

And those succulent pink toes, just waiting to be eaten..

This isn't a zombie post, really.

There were so many little yams just popping out of the soil that I only harvested the ones I could see, and left the underground ones for another day.

And while I was there I picked the warrigal greens. Joseph Banks discovered this spinach substitute in New Zealand on his round-the-world jaunt with Captain Cook, and subsequently sent seeds back to the new world with The First Fleet. Apparently it was one of the few greens that thrived in Sydney's dry, sandy soil, and helped prevent scurvy in the convicts. They do contain high levels of oxalic acid (the greens, not the convicts), so need to be cooked well prior to eating (again, don't cook convicts. See, grammar is important).

So, a tribute to New Zealand today. The yams I sliced and sauteed with onion and garlic as the basis of a chickpea curry. Even with long simmering the yams stay a little crunchy. They are a brilliant water chestnut substitute in stir fries, and they roast beautifully. The insides go all fluffy, but still retain that slight sour oxalis tang. A very complex flavour. I steamed the warrigal greens, then popped them into the curry as well.

The children were of course, very excited to be eating chickpea curry with their favourite yams and yummy, yummy greens. Ho ho ho. This was a counterbalance to last night's lamb chops and potato wedges. Swings and roundabouts darlings, swings and roundabouts.


GretchenJoanna said…
I have grown "New Zealand Spinach" here many years, and used to make a very nice Creamy Green Soup with it all year long - but your warrigal leaves look smoother than my greens. The tiny toes yams are fascinating!
Heather said…
Beautiful yams. I would appreciate a meal like that. Too bad I can't just swing by and have a taste.
Anonymous said…
Our local garden centre gave me a fist full of oca a while ago and I shoved them into my large strawberry pots so that I wouldn't forget about them and find them deflated and mouldy at a future date where I promptly forgot about them. Come strawberry season I was waiting for my strawberries to turn red and noticed a proliferation of oxalis in my post "Bloody weeds!" said I...and promptly pulled half of them out before I realised that I, myself, planted said "weeds" ;). A double diploma in Horticulture doesn't count when you have an addled brain ;). My daughters used to refuse all kinds of things. Tomatoes..."No sir!", now they practically bath in them. Funny how when your parents move out you have to learn a few life lessons about food and how to prepare it isn't it...there is hope for your daughters yet ;)
Jo said…
Gretchen Joanna - how do you make your Creamy Green Soup? I wonder if New Zealand Spinach is the same thing? Does it have tiny yellow flowers?
Heather, I would love to cook yams and greens for a truly appreciative audience... swing by any time you like!
Anonymous said…
I've just bought some potato onions from a Tassie seller who also sells oca and I've thought of getting some when it's the season. I'm curious to know how like potatoes they are though as I've heard they will substitute for them. What do oca taste like?
Jo said…
Kind of hard to describe. Certainly not a potato substitute. Do you get the yellow flowered oxalis weed in Victoria? In SA it's called soursob, and it covers the paddocks in yellow flowers in winter. As kids we would chew the stems, and they have that sour lemony tang. Well, there's an element of that in the oca. They are very crisp when you slice them, almost like a very unripe apple.
They stay crisp when you saute them, which is why they are a good water chestnut substitute. And yet they explode out of their skins in fluffy clouds when you roast them.
They are incredibly easy to grow, and nothing eats the plants, because of the high oxalis content. But you wouldn't use them as a staple like potato.. they are quite small, and I imagine, that again, due to the oxalic acid, you wouldn't want to eat large amounts. I find they make a great little 'filler' veg, available at a time when there is not a lot else in the garden.
I just buy them from the green grocer in the winter and plant them out early spring if I haven't saved any to plant, but Tas is the only place I have ever seen them for sale.
Anonymous said…
The curry sounds yummy. I make a vegetable and chickpea curry regularly with no objections from my children. But made a lentil and sweet potato curry a couple of weeks ago. Response: why have we turned vegetarian? I told said child because it is yummy,healthy, better for the environment and cheaper.

We had lamb cutlets the next day! Child sighed with relief. But the lentil dish will be served again! Loved it with homemade yoghurt and mango chutney.
Jo said…
Fran, that is hilarious re the oca. I have to make sure that I don't let any of the family weed up the oca. It really does look like a weed while it is growing.
Lucinda, I think children are suspicious of change. Maybe it is an evolutionary advantage.

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