Oca, also known as New Zealand yam or Oxalis tuberosa, is a tuberous root vegetable that belongs to the oxalis family. It is native to the Andean region of South America but has also become popular in New Zealand, giving it one of its common names. Oca is a perennial plant that grows in cool climates and is cultivated for its edible tubers.
The oca plant features heart-shaped leaves and produces small, yellow flowers. It can reach a height of about 30 centimeters and spreads through the production of small bulbs. The tubers are generally small to medium-sized, elongated, and can vary in color, ranging from pale yellow to red or purple. They have a distinct sour and tangy flavor and crispy texture when cooked.
Oca tubers are rich in starch and vitamin C and provide a good source of dietary fiber. They are often used as a substitute for potatoes or sweet potatoes in recipes. Oca can be boiled, roasted, fried, or mashed, and its versatility allows it to be used in various dishes, including soups, stews, salads, and stir-fries.
Due to its nutritional value, unique taste, and vibrant appearance, oca has gained popularity as a specialty crop in some regions. Its cultivation has spread beyond its native regions, reaching areas with similar climate conditions around the world.
The word "oca" has its etymology rooted in the Quechuan language, which is spoken by indigenous peoples in the Andean region of South America. In Quechuan, the word "occa" refers to a tuberous root vegetable that is similar to a potato. The Spanish language borrowed this term, modifying it to "oca", and it was further spread to other languages around the world. Today, "oca" is primarily used to refer to the plant species Oxalis tuberosa, commonly known as New Zealand yam or oca.