Yacon produces a rhizome, aerial shoots and tubers

Three levels of growth, aerial shoots, rhizome and tubers

I harvested some Yacon the other day and was quite surprised when it actually tasted like the descriptions I had read. The tubers taste something like a Nashi pear, a little sweeter and more fluid but a crunchy texture. We put some in a salad and I was picking the pieces out, they were that tasty.

Harvesting (from Green Harvest)

Yacon spikes can grow to 2 mtrs

Yacon is a part of the sunflower family. Spikes can grow to 2 mtrs with small daisy like flowers

The plant takes 6 – 7 months to reach maturity. After flowering top growth withers and dies back and the tubers are harvested. They resemble dahlia or sweet potato tubers, on average weigh about 300 g but can weigh up to 2 kg. Once the soil starts to heave at the base of the plant, dig around to ‘bandicoot’ a few early tubers to extend the harvest season. The tubers continue to sweeten as the plant dies back so the main harvest should only take place once all the top growth is dead, usually by May. Don’t leave it too long though, especially in areas that have mild winters, as the plant will start to shoot again as the weather warms up and the days get longer. The plant needs to be dug carefully to avoid damage to the crisp tubers. After separation from the central stem undamaged tubers can be stored in a cool, dark and dry place with good air circulation for some months. The average sugar content of the tubers increases during storage because of starch conversion. They can also be exposed to the sun for up to 2 weeks to accelerate the sweetening process.

My Yacon Yield

The yield was not huge for the size of the plant and the reproductive part, which is a perennial rhizome looking a bit like ginger. The rhizome grows near the surface and sends out large aerial shoots that eventually produce a tiny yellow flower.

Underneath the rhizome the Yacon produces the tubers. This is the part that is of value to the people who grow it.

The Yacon is a native of the Andes from Colombia to northern Argentina. This could be why the harvest wasn’t as prolific as suggested as I am growing it in Queensland.

According to Wikipedia: Yacón can easily be grown in kitchen gardens in climates with only gentle frosts. It grows well in Kathmandu, Nepal and southern Australia (including Tasmania) and New Zealand, where the climate is mild and the growing season long. It does not grow well in New South Wales, Queensland, or Northern Territory.

Yacon rhizome

Yacon rhizome, looks a bit like ginger

In this picture you can see the perennial rhizome below the aerial shoots and below the rhizome are the tubers. The location I had them growing wasn’t the most fertile in the garden. This year I will create a very fertile location with plenty of compost and see if they give a better harvest.

Health Benefits

Like all new crops and crops that are not well known there are amazing claims of health benefits. The one that I can see as being of interest is the benefit for people with Type 2 diabetes. From Wikipedia Until as recently as the early 2000s, yacón was hardly known outside of its limited native range, and was not available from urban markets; however, press reports of its use in Japan for its purported antihyperglycemic properties made the crop more widely known in Lima and other Peruvian cities. Companies have also developed novel products such as yacón syrup and yacón tea. Both products are popular among diabetics and dieters.