Yacon: Edible Perennial Tubers
In my effort to grow every kind of edible perennial as is possible in my area, I came across a new plant called Yacon (ya-kon). Of course, it isn’t really new. It’s actually been a staple crop to the indigenous people of the Andes of Peru for like forever. But it has only recently made its way to the United States.
Yacon grows edible tubers on the root system, much the same as the way potatoes grow. But the taste is nothing like a potato…
Fresh Yacon tubers are crisp and juicy with a delicate flavor reminiscent of apple or melon and a surprising sweetness that increases in storage. They can be eaten raw, (fresh or dried) steamed, baked, roasted, or juiced. The somewhat bitter skin can be scrubbed off with a stiff brush, peeled with a vegetable peeler, or removed after baking. One of our favorite recipes is to simply chop the peeled tubers into bite-size pieces and saute them in a little butter until the sugar begins to caramelize. Serve with mashed potatoes topped with fresh parsley.
While satisfyingly sweet and flavorful, Yacon remains low in calories. This is due to the fact that the sugar contains high levels of oligofructose (inulin), a form of sugar that is not metabolized readily by the human body. For this reason, Yacon shows much promise as a food for diabetics and as a base for a low calorie sweetener. Even a tea made from dried Yacon leaves is purported to have the ability to level out blood sugar levels. Research on the benefits of Yacon for diabetics is being carried out in Argentina and Japan. Oligofructose is known to aid digestion and promote beneficial bacteria in the colon, so it may also help prevent colon cancer. High in fiber, low in fat, and rich in oligofructose, Yacon is considered by many to be a superfood of the future.
Source: Seeds of Change (an excellent resource for more info on Yacon)
It can’t be grown as a perennial in all areas, but in mild climates the plant’s crown can be left in the ground over winter protected by a heavy layer of mulch.
Mother Earth News also wrote a really interesting article on Yacon a few years back, that you might be interested in checking out. This Article is also very informative!
What’s also cool about Yacon is that you can juice the tubers and cook the liquid down to create a sweet syrup!
For right now, I have our Yacon growing in a large plastic tub. But these plants need a growing space of at least three feet in diameter, and they grow to five feet tall, so I really need to be preparing a more permanent bed where these plants won’t shade other crops.
If you are interested in adding Yacon to your garden or edible landscape, you may have a hard time finding any plants locally, and they do not grow well from seed. Chances are you’ll have to order plants online. I ordered mine this past Spring from Horizon Herbs.
My plants aren’t big enough to harvest from yet, but I’m excited that they’ve done well so far! I can’t wait to try the sweet tubers.
Have you ever tried Yacon? Are you growing it as well?