Friday, December 17, 2010

Bad luck and Good luck - How Not To Store Oca and Mashua and Winter Wheat as an Indestructible Cover Crop

Today, I went through my oca and mashua tubers. They were in a refrigerator and I’d been meaning to bring them out of the refrigerator for a while. The reason I’d been waiting is because mice love oca and we recently had some mice problems in the building I was planning on moving them to; plus, I’ve been really busy.

Well, there were apples in the fridge as well and ripe apples release ethylene gas. Ethylene gas makes things ripen really fast . . and it built up in our fridge. As a result, a lot of my oca and mashua has become rubbery. Most of the tubers seem like they’ll be okay and last long enough until I can plant them in the spring. But a couple, I’m going to plant now and see if I can nurse them through winter, otherwise they’re going to turn to mush and I’ll lose that variety.

So, if you want to learn from my mistake - never store oca or mashua with fruit. I should have known better, but sometimes, you space out about things when you’re stretched for time.

While it may seem I’m running through a stretch of bad luck, I also had a lucky surprise yesterday. This fall, I planted winter hard white wheat for a cover crop, but I got it in too late. I planted it in the middle of November I think, and when our hard frost came and it hit 6ºF, I thought all the wheat seedlings (literally seedlings - they only had just sent out their first roots and not shoots were visible) had been killed. Since I didn’t want the soil to be exposed to the heavy rains of winter and have my soil structure destroyed, I covered it with a couple inches of hay.

Yesterday, though, I noticed that the wheat has sprouted and managed to grow through the several inches of wet, matted hay, and it’s grown quite a bit - in the middle of December! Pretty amazing!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting speculation about the ethylene. I have never kept oca in a fridge, so cannot comment. It could just be the oca have gone rubbery due to accelerated drying out in the low absolute humidity of the fridge - they tend to shrink and go wrinkly. This makes for better eating, with a more floury consistency. But it usually takes several weeks (at room temperature anyway).
    From your previous post it didn't look like they had caught any frost (the other possible reason), but is there any chance the thermostat on the fridge got turned too low? When frosted or frozen, usually the tubers loose a lot of their colour.
    Keep us informed about the ones you pot up. I have assumed that there is a natural dormancy period, but proof one way or the other would be useful information.