Yacon is an underused root crop from the Andean region of South America and is a plant with sweet tasting tuberous roots, it is sometimes referred to as “pear of the earth”. As a crop it is known to have been cultivated and consumed since pre Inca times. The roots contain a form of sugar, fructooliogosaccharides (known as FOS) which has a very low caloric value and very beneficial to the health of the human intestinal tract. Roots are best eaten raw and the rather bitter skin taken off by peeling, similar to sweet potato or potato. It can be used in salads grated or sliced, Yacon can also be baked or steamed. Roots are very high in moisture content aprox 90% and can be easily incorporated as part of a healthy daily diet. There are many health claims made for Yacon but our research to date suggests that to maximise these benefits the right genetic selection and the correct storage and processing systems are critical. At the very least Yacon should be on every gardeners to grow list, it is a very easy vegetable to grow and tolerates a wide range of soil and climate types. In Northern Europe it takes aprox 180 – 200 days to maturity and must be kept frost free to maintain growth. Tubers can tolerate some levels of cold and the crop performs well at lower temperatures than sweet potato. A temperature range somewhere between 18C and 28C seems adequate to achieve good results in producing very satisfactory amount of roots per plant approximately 2.5kg minimum can be achieved with good soil fertility. Planting should be at mound centres of 90cm and 30 cm to 40 cm between plants grown on mounds or drills similar or slightly larger than potato. The use of fertilizer similar to potato culture will give improved yields.
Yacon is a member of the Asteracea family which includes Jerusalem Artichoke, Dahlia and Chickory all of which contain some levels of inulin which is similar to FOS but with a higher degree of polymerisation. An increasing popular syrup, Yacon syrup, is made from the Yacon root through a very simple evaporation process similar to the process used for Maple Syrup. Despite its long history Yacon has remained relatively under-utilised unlike other Andean crops such as potato and sweet potato.
At FitzGerald Nurseries as an extension to our work on sweet potato we started research and testing propagation and growing of Yacon in 2011. Since then we have collected 14 forms commonly in cultivation around the world. From this collection we continue to test and select the best form for garden and market garden cultivation. Currently we are satisfied to offer one white selection and we continue work to select at least two more selections during 2016 with different root colours and bioactive properties.
|yellow, small sunflower like flowers in summer|
|Large leaves arranged in pairs up thick hollow stems, triangular or heart shape with long lobes.|
|Tuberous edible roots can be under perfect conditions up to 5kg per plant in average garden conditions 2Kg is normal.|
|Height 150cm width 100cm|
|Sheltered sunny position|
|Sunny, warm locations and well drained soil|
|Water logged soil and temperatures below 1°C|