(5 June 2014)
Yacon (Polymnia sonchifolia syn. Smallanthus sonchifolia) is a popular crop in permaculture systems and for good reason. This herbaceous perennial of up to two metres in height has many uses including high protein foliage fodder plant for animals, cooking young stems as a vegetable, and eating tubers raw in salads, baked, or boiled (they don’t collapse and go soggy like pumpkin tends to). The tubers are comparable in weight and appearance to sweet potatoes but differ in both taste and texture. I have been pondering over how best to describe them all week and consider them not unlike a nashi pear: sweet, juicy and crisp. Yacon is also diabetic-friendly as it stores its carbohydrate component as inulin (as do Jerusalem artichokes).
Yacon is easy to grow and requires similar conditions to potatoes – that is, a sunny spot with deep, rich, well-drained soil and reliable moisture. Plant tubers during spring once any chance of heavy frosts has passed, and harvest around six months later after plant has flowered and foliage has begun to die back. Tubers store well in a cool, dark and dry area in coco peat or similar. Keep the smaller, mauve-coloured tubers and rhizomes for re-planting the following season.