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Useful Tropical Plants

Oxalis tuberosa

Molina.

Oxalidaceae

+ Synonyms

Acetosella crenata (Jacq.) Kuntze

Acetosella tuberosa (Molina) Kuntze

Oxalis aracatcha hort. ex Zucc.

Oxalis arracacha G.Don

Oxalis chicligastensis R.Knuth

Oxalis crassicaulis Zucc.

Oxalis crenata Jacq.

Oxalis melilotoides argentina Griseb.

Xanthoxalis crassicaulis (Zucc.) Small

Xanthoxalis tuberosa (Molina) Holub

Common Name: Oca

Oxalis tuberosa
Some of the different colours and shapes of the tubers
Photograph by: Laurenjm
Creative Commons License
Oxalis tuberosa Oxalis tuberosa Oxalis tuberosa Oxalis tuberosa Oxalis tuberosa

General Information

Oka is a herbaceous perennial plant growing 45cm or more tall from a tuberous rootstock. The stems are at first erect, but become more prostrate later[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The plant is widely cultivated in the Andes for its edible tubers, there are many named varieties[
33
Title
Rare Vegetables for Garden and Table.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1960
ISBN
-
Description
Unusual vegetables that can be grown outdoors in Britain. A good guide.
,
97
Title
The Ethno-Botany of Pre-Columbian Peru.
Publication
 
Author
Towle. M. A.
Publisher
Aldine Publishing Co. Chicago.
Year
1961
ISBN
 
Description
A very interesting book covering quite a lot of information on plant uses in S. America although many of the plants are not suitable for temperate areas.
,
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

Known Hazards

The leaves contain oxalic acid, which gives them their sharp flavour. Perfectly all right in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since oxalic acid can bind up the body's supply of calcium leading to nutritional deficiency. The quantity of oxalic acid will be reduced if the leaves are cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

S. America - Colombia, Peru.

Habitat

Unknown in a truly wild situation, though plants have been found growing at heights up to 4,000 metres in the Andes[
97
Title
The Ethno-Botany of Pre-Columbian Peru.
Publication
 
Author
Towle. M. A.
Publisher
Aldine Publishing Co. Chicago.
Year
1961
ISBN
 
Description
A very interesting book covering quite a lot of information on plant uses in S. America although many of the plants are not suitable for temperate areas.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *  *  *
HabitPerennial
Height0.45 m
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusCultivated

Cultivation Details

A plant of higher elevations in the tropics, where it is found at elevations from 2,800 - 4,200 metres. It can be grown down to sea level in the subtropics and can also be grown in some parts of the temperate zone - its main limitation is that it requires a daylength of less than 12 hours before it starts to develop tubers[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 12 - 24°c, but can tolerate 5 - 28°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Frost kills back its foliage, however the plant's tubers have exceptional regenerative capacity[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 800 - 1,300mm, but tolerates 570 - 2,150mm[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Prefers a light rich soil in a warm sunny position[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
37
Title
The Gardener's Assistant.
Publication
 
Author
Thompson. B.
Publisher
Blackie and Son.
Year
1878
ISBN
-
Description
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
,
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. Tolerant of most soils that are fertile and well-drained[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5.3 - 7.8[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Tubers can be harvested about 8 months after planting out[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Yields tend to average about 7 - 10 tonnes per hectare but experimentally yields of 40 tonnes per hectare have been achieved[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].
Earthing up the growing stems as they start to form tubers can increase yields significantly[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].
It is said that the varieties with white tubers are bitter because they contain calcium oxalate crystals whilst those with tubers that are of other colours are sweet[
97
Title
The Ethno-Botany of Pre-Columbian Peru.
Publication
 
Author
Towle. M. A.
Publisher
Aldine Publishing Co. Chicago.
Year
1961
ISBN
 
Description
A very interesting book covering quite a lot of information on plant uses in S. America although many of the plants are not suitable for temperate areas.
]. However, we have grown one variety with white tubers and it most certainly was not bitter[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Edible Uses

Tubers - raw or cooked[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
103
Title
Flowering Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Haywood. V. H.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
 
ISBN
0-19-217674-9
Description
Very readable and well illustrated, it lists plants by families giving the basic diagnostic features and some details of plant uses.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. An acid lemon flavour when first harvested, if left out in the sun the tubers turn sweet[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
], so sweet in some varieties that they are said to resemble dried figs and are sold as fruits in local markets in S. America[
34
Title
The Oxford Book of Food Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Harrison. S. Wallis. M. Masefield. G.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1975
ISBN
-
Description
Good drawings of some of the more common food plants from around the world. Not much information though.
,
37
Title
The Gardener's Assistant.
Publication
 
Author
Thompson. B.
Publisher
Blackie and Son.
Year
1878
ISBN
-
Description
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
,
97
Title
The Ethno-Botany of Pre-Columbian Peru.
Publication
 
Author
Towle. M. A.
Publisher
Aldine Publishing Co. Chicago.
Year
1961
ISBN
 
Description
A very interesting book covering quite a lot of information on plant uses in S. America although many of the plants are not suitable for temperate areas.
,
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The cooked root is delicious whether in its sweet or acid state, it can be boiled, baked etc in similar ways to potatoes[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The tubers vary in colour from purple to red, yellow and white; they tend to be rather smaller than potatoes, with good sized specimens reaching 8cm or more in length. The slightly waxy skin makes cleaning them very easy[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. They contain about 70 - 80% moisture, 11 - 22% carbohydrate, 1% fat, 1% fibre and 1% ash[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The carbohydrate is rich in sugar and easy to digest[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. Acid types are rich in oxalic acid (up to 500ppm) but sweet forms have much less oxalic acid than is found in potatoes[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Edible young leaves and flowers - raw or cooked[
34
Title
The Oxford Book of Food Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Harrison. S. Wallis. M. Masefield. G.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1975
ISBN
-
Description
Good drawings of some of the more common food plants from around the world. Not much information though.
,
37
Title
The Gardener's Assistant.
Publication
 
Author
Thompson. B.
Publisher
Blackie and Son.
Year
1878
ISBN
-
Description
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
,
103
Title
Flowering Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Haywood. V. H.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
 
ISBN
0-19-217674-9
Description
Very readable and well illustrated, it lists plants by families giving the basic diagnostic features and some details of plant uses.
]. Poor quality[
33
Title
Rare Vegetables for Garden and Table.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1960
ISBN
-
Description
Unusual vegetables that can be grown outdoors in Britain. A good guide.
]. Use in moderation, see notes above on known hazards.

Medicinal

None known

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle.
Harvest the tubers when the plant becomes dormant. Store in a cool dry frost free place.
Basal cuttings in spring[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade until they are rooting well.

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