Friday, 29 June 2012

Yacon Do It

Seems I have been able to successfully grow Yacón up in the North Central Victorian mountains.

I needed something to cheer me up this morning as my car wouldn't start again today.  It made me miss out on birthday lunch with my daughter Naomi yesterday.  So, I was very happy when, wandering around my garden, the thought came to me to dig up a Yacón tuber to try something new for dinner tonight.  I already knew that there were some tubers under my plant but I had no idea how big they were or whether they are ready to harvest.

Now, Yacón, a native of South America, is known to be not highly frost resistant and we do get frequent winter frosts where I live. So it was with some risk that I planted a sample, not knowing what results to expect. 
The leaves of the Yacón are huge and quite beautiful.  Sort of like a leaf within a leaf.  There is a well defined normal ovate leaf shape set within a fairly triangular jagged arrowhead shape.   But Yacón leaves are very, very tender, and hairy.   

My plant was almost in flower when the first frost came, a few weeks back.  I got up early next morning to check on it and it appeared to be fine.  The leaves were still green.  But that was before the sun appeared over the mountains to the east.  Later that day the leaves had turned black and the tips of the stalks were drooping.

I had a peek underground and was delighted to see lots going on there but resolved to leave things as they were until I had time to investigate further.  I did cover the area with straw for frost protection but not before I noticed that there were green shoots coming from what I later discovered are the smaller propagation tubers that sit a little closer to the surface than the huge edible ones.  I have yet to decide whether to lift the whole lot or leave next years young plants in the ground and hope they do not show their heads before winter is over.  Food gardening really is fun, and so rewarding.

Back to today and renewed delight when I uncovered and just snapped off my first harvested Yacón tuber.

But what to do with it?  Time to consult. 

I recently came across what I think is a great gardening site called Foodnstuff which is run by a gentleman previously unknown to me but who lives in my general locale around Melbourne, Australia and whose site I am very happy to recommend.  His Yacon page (you have to scroll down in it a bit to find the detail) contains some useful information on growing, harvesting, storing and using Yacon.  If you scroll down a bit further there is also a picture of the beautiful leaf detail I mentioned earlier.

Wikipedia has a very good entry for Yacón.  Well worth reading for information on this lesser known but useful edible food source.

Then there is also the Diggers Club web page.  This is where I sourced my plant.  There are of course many other information sources available.

Now to think about dinner.

Later That Day

So what did I do with my first Yacon tuber? Well, first I just had to try it raw so I washed and brushed the complete thing before weighing it. It weighed just under 500gm and that is only one tuber. I don't yet know how many there are to be harvested from this one plant and I am also wondering just how many rhizomes I can separate from this years growth to expand next year's crop.

Anyway, the taste test. Having cut and peeled a slice and taken a big chomp I can say that the texture was something between an apple and a pear. Very juicy and cooling in the mouth with a pleasant taste and a definite but not overly-strong sweetness. I have nothing so far to provide a comparison as to whether this was more or less sweet then could be expected although I have read that after a couple of weeks of drying in the sun, the sweetness really comes to the fore. Still, fresh from the ground, it was a pleasant treat and I could have eaten more but I wanted to do other things with it. 

I decided to use half to make juice with some apples. Half a tuber (250gm) to five smallish apples almost filled my juicer jug and made a fine thirst quencher which I can recommend but which might have benefited from a slightly increased Yacon content.

The remainder I sliced, chipped and fried together with some tofu cubes in a small amount of coconut oil. I added to this a small can of baked beans which may not excite everyone but hey, I am not out to impress anyone here. This is the first time that I have eaten fairly crisp (in a fruity, apple type sense), semi-translucent, semi-sweet fries, and I can honestly say that the experience was very satisfying. OK. The baked beans. I admit it. They were there just as a backup in case the whole thing flopped, but there was nothing left on my plate when I had finished eating.

Grand Harvest Next Day

Today I dug up, well probed about in the dirt with my hands actually, the remainder of my edible Yacón tubers, and here they are.

Three and a half kg, just under 8 lbs, in total with yesterday's dig.  Very happy with that, considering they did not have a full growing season.   I left the main plant with it's new propagating rhizomes in the ground well covered with straw.  I will decide whether to lift them all for indoor over-wintering later.  From the number of new node points it looks like I will be able to start around 8 or 10 plantings next Spring.


  1. I think the 'gentleman' I mentioned at the foodnstuff blog is actually a 'lady', having read some more good stuff there. Apologies to the owner for my incorrect assumption.

    1. Yes, Bernie, I am a lady (without inverted commas) and I accept your apologies :-) and thanks for recommending my blog.

      I am enjoying seeing what you are doing up there (via the PRI site) and note that you are a permie. Did the PDC blow your mind like it did mine? It is amazing stuff.

      Best wishes.

  2. Hi foodnstuff, happy to make acquaintance with someone operating geographically fairly close by.

    You have obviously been active for quite a long time and have accumulated a lot of growing experience for our region that I am sure will be useful to supplement my scant knowledge. So thank you for your blog, and please keep doing that.

    I am not sure if the PDC blew my mind. There were 80 people on my course and I remember feeling quite uncomfortable, dazed and shell-shocked by the end of the two weeks. The sheer scope of the course makes covering it adequately in the allotted time quite an ambitious task for both tutor and student. Perhaps that is the definition of mind-blowing. Anyway, I must have taken at least some of it in because I didn't feel at all comfortable continuing doing what was doing at the time and wanted to start to prepare for what I see as a very uncertain future by using some of those ideas.

    I think there are a growing number of folk waking to that view and you are obviously one of those also.

    I don't often put updates on the PRI Global Network site as I don't think that the sort of stuff that I do is what it is really intended for, but I am happy to see myself as a small part of that network. Actually I have a growing distrust of the PRI focus which seems to lean more towards getting people to set up business structures and become consultants than operating at a practical level themselves. Perhaps that is what it is all about but I don't see myself as being integrated into that sort of thing. I am happy just picking up experience that I see may become useful in a more resource-depleted world.

    I am also not sure why I have started blogging, first on Facebook and then on the two sites that you have found. It just seems the right thing for me to do. And it is quite therapeutic.