YACON: Smallanthus sonchifolius
Peruvian Ground Apple
WHEN IT COMES TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND FOOD SECURITY the more unusual plants LIKE YACON are going to become a cornerstone of our food gardens. WHY – because they are easy to grow, suited to our climate, can be eaten raw or cooked taste damn good and are very healthy. If you would like to find out more about food plants that are easy to grow in the subtropics – click here for my complete seasonal planting guide.
WHILE YACON IS A FAIRLY COMMON PLANT to organic and permaculture gardeners, it deserves to be more widely grown.
IT IS A VEGETABLE THAT PRODUCES A DELICIOUS ROOT TUBER, and best of all it is hardy and virtually maintenance free. I tossed a piece of this down the bottom of the garden and six months later had a two metre high plant that yielded about 4 kilos of edible tubers. No watering, no feeding and no pests!
NATIVE TO THE ANDEAN SOUTH AMERICAN COUNTRIES it has value eaten raw – where it tastes like a crunchy ‘pine’ flavoured apple, or roasted where it takes on a caramelized taste.
NOTE: The sugars in it are not absorbed by the body and researches are excited about its potential many uses – particularly for diabetics. You can already buy it as a syrup, herbal tea and powder.
HOW TO GROW YACON
• Plant the purplish ‘corms’, that appear on top of the tubers, in autumn and harvest after flowering in June/July. Like pumpkin – the flavour and texture of the edible tubers improve if stored in a cool, dark, shady place for a week or so.
’ It gets to about 2m or so and will grow in sun to semi-shade. It is best grown in a perennial bed alongside larger edible plants. I grow alongside turmeric, galangal, sweet potato and cassava where it seems quite happy.
’ Take care when harvesting as the tubers are very brittle and will not store if damaged. It is delicious ‘raw’, tasting like a crunchy apple, or can be roasted like potato.
TIP: for roasting, cut into bit sized pieces and toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and bake for 20-30 mins at 180 C in a roasting tray.
FOR MORE TIPS ON WHAT TO PLANT WHEN IN THE SUBTROPICAL GARDEN GO TO THIS LINK