Botanical Name: Polymnia sonchifolia
Some other names: Peruvian ground apple, Apple of the earth
How to grow it:
Yacon is a perrenial tuber to 2 metres that has very attractive above-ground foliage. Every year at the beginning of winter, the foliage dies back and this is the best time to dig up what I’ve always found to be a massive supply of sweet tasting tubers. If the smaller roots are left in the ground, the plant will resprout again in spring and you’ll get crops year after year.
It does well in my sub-tropical climate, but will do just as well in cooler climates. Will grow in full sun to partial shade and due to it’s tuber system, is quite drought hardy.
Will respond well to fertilising & mulching, and for best results, will prefer a deep, loose soil. It will still produce well in any well-drained soil but it doesn’t like boggy conditions.
It will also do very well in big pots, but needs to be needs to be started again every year or it will become potbound very quickly.
Any root, tuber or sucker seems to resprout, but if your soil freezes in winter, you would be well advised to keep some roots in the fridge for replanting in spring.
Due to the attractive foliage and strong root system, plant will do well amongst other ornamental plants, or I tend to plant it out of the way in areas that I don’t water – it seems quite happy without any care.
Vitamins A, B, & C, potassium, calcium, magnesium & iron.
Yacon derives it’s sweetness from inulin – a sugar that’s indigestible by humans. That makes it suitable for diabetic and low calorie diets.
Using it in the kitchen:
Every year when the foliage dies back we end up with a glut of the tubers. I like to give some of the crop away as a novelty, and my kids like them peeled and eaten raw. They have a sweet and slightly earthy taste – delicious!
They’ll keep pretty well in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.
They can be peeled and chopped into green salads and fruit salads and are great in the juicer with other vegetables.
They can also be baked with the skins on (the skin peels away easily after cooking) or added to soups, casseroles or curries.
In spring, the young shoots & foliage can be added to stir fries, curries & soups.
Although we don’t eat them all year round, smaller tubers could probably be dug up at any time making Yacon a great survival food – it requires basically no care and in all but the coldest climates will keep producing every year.