Yacon is one of the most extraordinary plants of the Andes. This spectacular plant is related to the sunflower & grows very similarly. It is also called "Pear of the Earth" because it's tubers are a delicious flavor that resembles a blend of watermelon, apple, and pear. It is very juicy and crisp and can be eaten raw or cooked. Highly recommended, fun to grow for a fall harvest.
Yacon is an unusual vegetable eaten for over 1,500 years in the Andes mountains, but virtually unknown elsewhere. This delicious root is surprisingly sweet, and is also very juicy and crisp. It's sort of like eating a water chestnut that is almost as sweet as an apple or melon. Yacon contains a low-calorie sugar substitute that makes it perfect for weight loss plans or low-sugar diets. The plants are high-yielding and easy to grow. You're not likely to find this rare veggie in markets, but now you can grow your own supply at home!
The plant forms two kinds of roots: large storage tubers (the parts that are eaten), and central "eyes", from which the plant may be propagated. Yacon grows about 4 to 6 feet tall, with oversized, fuzzy leaves that are triangular in shape. It's an attractive, exotic-looking plant that is worth growing just for the foliage! When the leaves die back in late fall or winter, the tubers are ready for harvesting. They average 5 to 10 ounces each, and are about 90% water, which gives them their juiciness. Some people prefer eating them fresh, by simply peeling them and eating them like an apple. You may also bake them or add them to soups or salads.
Yacon comes from a mild climate, with nights that are cool. It prefers partly sunny conditions, with protection from strong afternoon sun. It likes rich, well-draining soil that's kept consistently moist.
Yacon is an ideal food for people who suffer from diabetes and those who want to lose weight. They are known to be rich in dietary fiber and low in calories. Yacon tubers and leaves have high levels of fructo-oligosaccharide which is a type of sugar that cannot be recognized by the digestive system making them low in calories as a result. Fructo-oligosaccharide can aid in digestion and feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut which can play an important role in lowering the risk of diabetes. The bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids that have powerful anti-obesity effects when digested. Yacon contains a type of polyphenol called chlorogenic acid which has a strong antioxidant effect that is more than that of even red wine. Yacon tubers are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium which can help people who suffer from high-blood pressure.
The Yacon tubers can be enjoyed raw or cooked, leaves can be used to make an herb tea that is used as a medicine and Yacon syrup can be used as a substitution for sugar in baked goods. Because Yacon tubers are sweet, juicy and crisp, they are perfect for use in salads. In addition, they can be grilled, fried, baked, sauteed and marinated. Use in curry, stir-fries, soups, fried dishes and juices. Choose ones that are slim without scratches on the surface and avoid those with shriveled cuts. For storing, wrap them in a newspaper and store in a cool dark place for up to ten days.
In addition to a food source, Yacon have Yacon used as a medicine by many cultures for hundreds years. Big Yacon leaves are used to wrap food during cooking in South America. The name, Yacon means "watery root" in Spanish.