Oca harvest hits Barking in food-growing scheme

Pupils at Northbury Primary School in Barking have been growing oca as part of a nationwide experime

Pupils at Northbury Primary School in Barking have been growing oca as part of a nationwide experiment in growing the crop. Pupils Bruno Thompson, Andre Estanislao, Tyrese Johnson, Arehone Makhomu, Ariadne Jocenkaite and Sumaiya Ahmed with school gardner Tom Parker - Credit: Archant

A South American crop has come to the borough – thanks to some of our youngest gardeners.

Pupils at Northbury Primary School began planting oca, a potato-like vegetable, in March and have finally been rewarded for their efforts.

After digging up the results last Monday, assistant head teacher Kulvinder Johal said pupils enjoyed an oca salad – after some initial concerns.

“I asked the kitchen staff to serve some up for lunch,” she said. “Some of the kids were a bit scared to have a go at it so we put it in a salad and it looked like potato salad.”

She said last week’s harvest bore 129 oca, despite this being their first attempt at growing the crop, which is popular in New Zealand but has never enjoyed the same enthusiasm in Europe.

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The school grew the oca as part of the Food Growing Schools scheme, which encourages pupils to explore the cultivation of plants not commonly grown in London.

“We have a gardener who hadn’t heard of it but he said he was happy to give it a go,” she said. “Food Growing Schools sent us the seeds, or tubers, and we planted them.

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“I was taking pictures of the plants as they grew – the point was to see if the oca could rival the potato.

“The children were excited to see it grow.”

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