Yacon /Polymnia Edulis/
Yacon is a hardy perennial plant, producing annual stems 1m or more tall from a tuberous rootstock.
Yacon is in the same family as sunflower and has similar but smaller cheery yellow flowers.
Also known as sweet root, it produces high yields of tasty edible tubers.
The root can be eaten like a fruit or a vegetable.
Remove the skin and dice and add to vegetable or fruit salads.
We use it to replace cucumber in Winter salads and cut into sticks for dipping in dips instead of carrots.
The cooked root retains is sweetness and crispness and can be used as a great alternative to apples and pears in fruit pies, crumbles or compotes.
The root can be juiced and reduced to make syrup or concentrated further to make a type of sugar.
Warm temperate to tropics.
For best results, this plant requires a warm position with a well-drained fertile soil but will still produce a reasonable crop in poor soil.
Plants are unaffected by day-length and so can produce good yields of roots in both tropical and temperate zones, so long as there is a growing season of 6-7 months.
Grows well in full sun and in light shade.
Space about 80cm-1m apart.
Propagate by division in Autumn/Winter. The plant forms 2 distinct types of tuber. Large brown skinned tubers, approx. 15-25cm long, are used as storage organs and do not have the capacity to form new shoots. These are the tubers that are usually eaten. Smaller purple tubers grow in a cluster around the stem. These are used for propagation in Spring.
Dig up the plants in Autumn/Winter once the top growth has died back. Remove the large tubers for food.
Cut the main stem back to 10cm. Store this stem with the smaller purple tubers in moist sand or coco peat until they start to sprout in Spring.
Carefully divide the purple tubers clumped around the main stem into separate tubers being careful not to damage the emerging shoots. You may need to use a knife to separate some of the tubers from the main stem. Allow the cuts to dry for a few hours and then plant directly in improved soil or pot them up. They will stay dormant until the weather warms.
Plant them out in late Spring after the last expected frosts.
Tubers raw or cooked.
Leaves and stems can be cooked as a high protein green vegetable.
Risks and weed potential
Harvesting & Processing
Roots are ready to harvest from 5-7 months.
The plant will flower and the top growth with die down.
The roots are brittle and must be harvested with care to avoid damage.
When first harvested, the root can taste somewhat starchy but becomes crisper, sweeter and juicier after storage.
Undamaged roots can be stored in a cool, dry and dark place for several months.
Curing tubers in the sun increases their sweetness, but they will become less crispy.
Individual tubers may be ‘bandicooted’ as soon as they are of a sufficient size, leaving the plant to continue to grow and produce additional tubers.