Yacon, Oca, Mashua and Ulluco

January 20, 2011 · Filed Under Featured Plant, Garden · 9 Comments 

A lot of people are talking about these 4 Andean root vegetables right now.  I’ve mentioned them before in a post on the so-called Lost Crops of the Incas.

I’ve never successfully grown Ulluco.  I’ve tried twice.  It’s a very fussy plant, that doesn’t like it too hot or too cold, and is very sensitive to frost.  Most people I know who have grown this spend a lot of time carrying in- and outdoors, depending on the weather, and this is more work than I’m willing to invest into it.  If you try this, depending on your climate, you should consider it very experimental.

I grew oca and mashua (añu) for several years.

The problem with mashua for me was always getting it through winter storage, as mine would always start rotting sometime around January.  When I can build something better for winter root storage, I’ll probably try this again.  I liked the taste of mashua, sort of like very aromatic potatoes, and I know a lot of people now who are growing it.  This is certainly worth trying.

In the end, I didn’t find oca interesting enough to keep growing it.  It’s also a little difficult for northern locations because it’s daylight sensitive.  This means you have to keep the frost tender plants alive well into the winter and close to the winter solstice.  If I had a garden that was part of my house, this would be easier, but having to travel to a community garden makes this more difficult.  I’ve sent tubers of this to a number of people over the years.

I grow Yacón every year.  I’ve also sent out propagation tubers to quite a few people now, at least 15-20 over each of the last several years.  This is very easy to grow and store, and very prolific in the garden.  I made a document about growing yacon you can download here.

Anyway the main purpose of this post is to formally announce I will no longer be sending out tubers of these plants to people living in Europe or the US.  If you’ve already sent me an email asking about this, I can probably still send it, but I’m not accepting any more requests for the future.

People in the US can get Oca and Mashua from Peace Seeds, and Yacon from Nichols Nursery.  In the UK you can get oca and yacon from the Real Seed Catalogue, and they ship Europe wide.  In addition, Frank offers some of these tubers from his garden too, in limited quantities.  People who live other places who can’t find another source can still get in touch with me, and I’ll try to help.  The other exception is for people who offer seeds or tubers for trade over the Internet on their blog or other public space.  I’ll be glad to be contacted by these people too, but sending to the US is often not possible regardless.

The main problem with sending out these tubers, usually free of charge, is that I’m just not a seed company or nursery and it’s just too much work.  These tubers only go out around now, and I get emails from people all year round asking for them.  I’m not able to manage the logistics of keeping a waiting list and remembering to sent them at the right time.  I also frequently get requests for large numbers of tubers or to have them sent in a special way, declared a special way for customs, and so on, and if you have special requests like these you should be ordering from a company anyway.

In addition, of the probably 100 tuber samples I’ve sent out in the last few years, hardly anyone has gotten in touch later to tell me how it went and I’m not aware of anyone re-offering them anywhere.   All it means is I get busier and busier each year as the popularity of these tubers grow, the availability of the tubers in Internet seed trading doesn’t increase and I have no idea if what I’ve sent out is even still being grown.

Garden Pictures November 2010

November 6, 2010 · Filed Under Featured Plant, Garden · 1 Comment 

Above is what Tim Peters perennial rye looks like now.  I haven’t been worrying too much about the weeds, assuming they will soon either be killed off by frost or choked out by the rye.  The rye plants have been developing crowns, and all growing pretty strong.

This is the yacón corner of the garden.  Yacón is very sensitive to frost, and we’ve already had some light frosts, so you can see they are dying back a bit.  On the left is a new variety for this year with purplish leaves, New Zealand Yacón, and on the right my unamed brown rooted variety.  In the back out of sight I have a few of the red rooted Yacón Morado plants growing too.

Also suffering from ground frosts is my one surviving mauka plant Frank sent me a year ago.  Frank sent me 4 cuttings, which I kept indoors through the winter and planted in the spring.  I almost killed them with neglect several times, and while I’m glad I tried it once, I’m not planning to try it again this winter.  I just don’t have the space or resources to keep live cuttings through the winter indoors.  I can’t wait to try the root of this however, after the tops are killed off by frost.

Popcorn Homestead

June 8, 2010 · Filed Under Garden, General · 3 Comments 

Joan of Popcorn Homestead just sent me an email to tell me about her blog.  Located in Tokyo, Japan, she’s a fellow yacon grower!  I’ll bet she’ll be a good person to trade plants with in the years to come.

The only other garden blog in Japan I know of is Adekun’s Japan Blog, so it’ll be nice to hear more from that part of the world.

Interesting Links

January 17, 2010 · Filed Under Friends and Foes, Garden · 2 Comments 


If you save your own seeds, make your own compost and recycle and reuse in your garden, many people don’t need to buy anything except some lime if they have acid soil and starting mix in order to start plants indoors.

A lot of people ask me about making your own seed starting mix, so they can avoid buying anything for their garden.  What’s particularly troubling for many is nearly all seed starting mixes are based on either peat, which is often harvested in unsustainable ways, or coir, which is a waste product of the less than ethical coconut industry, and gets transported long distances.  Starting mixes not based on peat or coir need to be sterilized, usually requiring fossil fuels or chemicals such as household bleach.

I don’t know if this is truly a recipe for everyone.  Perhaps not everyone raises bats for guano?  Anyway, Alan just posted a great recipe for starting mix, he makes nearly completely with waste or other products from his farm.  I think this is a great starting point for many people to think about making something similar with sustainable things you may have available locally.


And Owen on Radix4Roots posted this great looking recipe for fermented yacón root!  Something guaranteed to keep your digestive system in motion.

Island Blog

From a working 400 acre farm on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario, this is a blog of someone I know from elsewhere on the Internet.  DirtSunRain

Yacón 2009

January 6, 2010 · Filed Under Featured Plant, Garden · 6 Comments 


I grew two kinds of yacón this year.  The first you see on the right is an unnamed variety with brown roots, which seems to be the most common kind at the moment.  The other variety, on the left, is called yacón morado and has red roots.  You can see yacón morado also has reddish leaves.

The unnamed variety is significantly more productive, yielding around twice what the yacón morado does, or about 10Kg per plant.


Yacón morado has an abundance of small flowers throughout most of the summer.  While the unnamed variety can bloom from time to time, it usually only does so as a result of some kind of stress.

The flowers also attracted large numbers of bees, but for whatever reason every time I was ready with the camera all the bees went away.



Here are the harvested roots.  Either something changed in the way it grew, or perhaps I was a little rushed during harvest, but it seems like the tubers broke off more readily this year during harvest.  Anyway, the one sure thing about yacón is the harvest is big, so even with a few pieces broken off there’s still lots left.  I’m not sure if the broken off pieces will rot before I have a chance to eat them or not.

I also haven’t had a chance to taste these two varieties side by side, so I’m not sure if the flavors are different.

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