Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

oca Oxalis tuberosa, an important food plant in S. America, especially in the region of the Andes, where it is second only to the potato as a root crop. The name comes from the Quechoa o’qa or okka. The plant is easy to propagate, and tolerates poor soil, high altitudes, and harsh climates.

The oca differs from other members of its genus, such as wood sorrel, in being grown mainly for its root tubers, although its spinach-like leaves and young shoots may also be eaten as a green vegetable. According to the National Research Council (of the USA, 1989), the tubers look like

stubby, wrinkled carrots. They have firm, white flesh and shiny skins in colors from white to red. Most varieties have a slightly acid taste—they have been called ‘potatoes that don’t need sour cream.’ Others, however, give no perception of acidity. Indeed, some are so sweet that they are sometimes sold as fruits.