I'm going to travel through Peru next summer collecting plants. One week I will be in the Andes (Sun festival, macchu picchu, etc) And the next week I will be in the Upper Amazon a couple hundred miles from Iquitos. I'm mainly interested in the Amazon portion to collect shade loving edible plants. I'm mostly interested in plants that could be used as salad greens, but so far I have found nothing in my research that would rival katuk or okinawan spinach.
Please give me recommendations for plants to collect. I'm also interested in any edible/useful plant that could be successfully adapted to parts of the U.S.
We have some starts from a friend, that I think originally came from Peru - oca (oxalis tuberosum), yakon (sp? tastes like a sweeter version of jicama), and of course they have dozens or hundreds of potatoes.
I'd practice Spanish and Quechua, until you can give a good description of the plant types you are looking for, and let locals make suggestions.
I learned (and promptly forgot) several dozen Quechua names of cool plants while I was there, good guides will know a lot and even the junior guides or porters will know things that the English-speaking guides may not. It didn't occur to me that I could collect samples.
Not sure if tubers will make it through customs, but they also have things like quinoa (I heard the Inca were breeding a highland variety), another plant that was the original medicinal source for quinine, and other special medicinal plants. High-yield or shade-tolerant quinoa would be a nice thing to find if it exists.
I would definitely recommend collecting mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) and oca (Oxalis tuberosa) plants while you're there. Varieties are difficult to come by in the U.S. Both are great tuber crops that can do well in poor, acidic soils and you can grow them all up and down the west coast of the US (and into coastal B.C. as well), and probably other parts of the US as well. You can grow them in Western Europe, New Zealand, and southeast Australia as well. I've grown them here in western Washington state and they're both really cool plants. Oca is sensitive to frost, so it's not a perennial unless you're in California or in USDA zone 9 or warmer, but mashua can take quite a few heavy frosts and will come back each year. Oca tastes like a potato with a bit of a 'sour' bite, which is from oxalic acid, which is the same thing that gives spinach and sorrel their sour flavor. Mashua is less palatable, but is crazily productive (I got five pounds off of one plant), very beautiful (it looks just like a nasturtium, it's in the same genus), and I think it'd make a good livestock feed. It does have the weird effect of decreasing testosterone levels though.
One way you could try to get the tubers past customs would be to ship them off in the mail from Peru - they're might be less of a risk of them being destroyed that way.
@ Erica: What colors are the oca tubers from the varieties you have? I'm always really interested in new varieties, and if you have some directly from Peru, it's very likely they're varieties that haven't been grown here in the US before. How did they grow where you're at and what's the climate like there?
redtitan wrote: @ Erica: What colors are the oca tubers from the varieties you have? I'm always really interested in new varieties, and if you have some directly from Peru, it's very likely they're varieties that haven't been grown here in the US before. How did they grow where you're at and what's the climate like there? -Adam
We got ours from Ianto Evans of Cob Cottage Co. He is an amazing gardener and has lots of central and south-American varietals that adapt well to temperate climate.
The Oca we have are a bright, coral-red color on the outside, very citrusy flavor in salads, tend to grow tubers about 3/4 inch around and 1" to 2.5" long. They seem brighter in color and more delicate-skinned than the NZ 'yams' I remember seeing, although I didn't know the plant then. They grow almost year-round in Coquille, OR in the temperate rainforest, and ours have survived one winter outdoors in Portland, OR at about 600 ft elevation (although I will not be surprised if they hate me after this cold snap).
Thank you. I am glad to hear any recommendations. Especially as they apply to southern California. If you are interested in this topic, you should check out the book I'm using to research these plants: Lost Crops of the Inca It is free in electronic format from google, and discusses cultivation potential in the industrial world of various, not well-known crops from the Andes. It even lists the synonyms for each plant in various languages including spanish and quechua.
Some highlights so far are: Ahipa, Lucuma, Tamarillo, Quito palm, and Andean walnut.