Yacón Tubers, A Refreshing Winter Treat

Yacón

Are you looking for a new vegetable type for your garden? Consider yacón, a plant with interesting sweet-potato-like tubers that have the texture of water chestnuts yet with the sweet taste of a scrumptious pear! Fresh yacón roots are deliciously juicy.

“Yacón” apparently means “water root” in the Inca language, and the wild-growing tubers have always been a much appreciated thirst-quenching refreshment for travelers.

There are 2 types of tubers. The purple/pink crowns typically grow at the base of the stalk just underneath the soil. The edible tubers grow deeper into the ground.

Growing Yacón

Yacón, also known as Peruvian ground apple, is easy to grow in most soils, although tubers will be larger in raised beds. You can plant them in pots as well. Just make sure that the containers are big enough for tubers to develop and grow. Outdoors, make sure that beds receive plenty of compost, well-rotted manure, or other organic matter, especially in the fall.

This nutritious vegetable can easily be grown in home gardens. It requires little farming expertise or experience. Simply plant the crowns in the spring when there is no chance for frost. The weather has to be nice, as the cold and strong winds are the biggest enemies of these herbaceous perennials.

Loosen the soil with a shovel to a depth of at least one foot. Plant a piece of yacón rhizome (crown) 3 to 4 inches deep. At least 1 eye should be sprouting and facing upward. Place the largest one facing up if more than one eye is sprouting. The others will eventually find their way to the surface. Water if the soil is dry to prevent that the roots go dormant.

Harvesting Yacón

Plants reach maturity after 6 to 7 months. It is time to harvest when the top growth of the plant withers after flowering and starts dying back. Be careful when using a shovel. Brush the dirt off with your hands and try not to damage the tubers. Separate them from the central stem and store them in a cool, dry, dark place with good air circulation. Pack them in paper bags if you want extra protection.

Health Benefits

According to study findings published in 2009 in the journal “Clinical Nutrition,” syrup made from yacón roots may help lower blood sugar. The article also mentioned that drinking yacón syrup suppresses appetite, which is great when you want to shed a few pounds.

Yacón tubers store carbohydrate in the form of inulin. This is super beneficial for patients with type II diabetics. The tubers also contain glyconutrients and antioxidants. They are rich in calcium, phosphorous, and potassium.

Tips

  • The height of the plants provides shade and makes them ideal companion plants for vegetables like bush beans, radishes, and spinach.
  • Yacón prefers direct sunlight, but can grow fairly well in shaded areas.
  • Crowns can be broken off or cut and planted separately. Just keep in mind that the smaller they are the more susceptible to damage they are too.
  • The crisp, fleshy tubers can be eaten raw, cooked, steamed, and fried or added to stir-fries.
  • Use the leaves to wrap foods as you would do with grape or cabbage leaves. They also make an excellent herbal tea.

Irida Sangemino is an accomplished permaculture adviser, homesteading expert, and instructor. Follow her and her husband Joe’s adventures at the Stony Creek Permaculture Farm. Your sustainable lifestyle starts here. Contact her at: info@stonycreekpermaculture.com

Source: Irida Sangemino

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