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in numerous ways: boiled, baked, fried, mixed fresh with salads, or pickled in vinegar. New Zealanders now serve it with their national dish, roast lamb.
Although at present barely known beyond the Andes, Mexico, and New Zealand, it seems likely, during the coming decades, that oca will become a vegetable familiar to millions of new consumers. First, though, the crop needs improvement. The plants in the Andes are infected with viruses that depress yields and could infect other crops such as potatoes. Fortunately, simple ways to remove viruses are available, and now, before the plant begins to spread, is the time to apply them.
Daylength requirements may slow up the crop's acceptance in new areas. Most Andean oca varieties have specific photoperiod responses that limit their culture to equatorial latitudes. If grown elsewhere, they form no tubers. Before oca's potential can be achieved worldwide, varieties that are either daylength neutral or adapted to long days must be located.
The plants of New Zealand, the southern end of the Andes, and perhaps Mexico seem likely sources for these.
Andean Region. Despite the fact that oca is an important food and cash crop in upland Andean areas, it suffers unwarranted cultural scorn because it is considered a “poor-person's” plant. Education could rid oca of its “poverty food” stigma, and, given a change in attitude and better marketing, the plant is likely to become a major food, not just for highland Indians but for everyone in the region. For some countries, it also might eventually become a valuable export.
Oca already yields well, but research in Britain indicates that elite virus-free stocks give much greater yields. The use of these in the Andes could therefore bring rapid economic benefits to highland farmers, who are among the most destitute in the western hemisphere.
Other Developing Areas. Oca seems particularly promising for the highlands of Central America, Asia, and Africa.
It is also likely to become a valued crop in other cooler areas of the Third World,