Sustainable Organic Gardening

A winter treat – Peruvian ground apple

Yacon Flower

Yacon’s pretty yellow flowers show its close botanical relationship with Jerusalem artichoke

Yacon – otherwise known as the Peruvian ground apple, strawberry jicama, Bolivian sunroot, llacon, sweet-root and ground pear – is ready to harvest now. We eat its sweet, juicy tubers raw, cooked or added to juices. I love this winter sweet treat with its great crunchy crispness; it tastes to me like nashi pear and can be used to create great meals. It also works well as an animal forage plant. The plant looks good in the garden too, with little daisy-like flowers. The edible tubers (there are two types of yacon tubers, those for propagation and those for eating) resemble dahlia or sweet potato tubers. They weigh on average around 300g but can reach up to 2 kg: enough to feed all of the family and the neighbours as well!

Yacon Rhizome

The red propagating rhizome will grow a new plant

The Yacon is easy to prepare but it’s worth noting that there are two ‘skins’. I remove the outer brown skin and inner white skin by peeling with a knife – the skin has a resinous taste – to reveal the amber coloured, sweet crunchy flesh. I treat this plant both as a vegetable and fruit. Try it sliced with orange blossom water sprinkled on top for a refreshing dessert, cut into chunks and add to your Waldorf salad instead of apple, or dip it in melted chocolate for a real sweet treat. Just a hint – if you are not serving it immediately after peeling, soaking in lemon or vinegar will stop the Yacon oxidising.

Yacon Tuber

The large, sweet potato-like tubers are the edible harvest

Yacon is so versatile that it can also be boiled, steamed or baked with other vegies. Cooked, they stay sweet and slightly crisp. If boiled ‘in the jacket’ the skin separates from the flesh and can be peeled off like a boiled egg. Yacon can also be used in a dessert crumble or pie with apples, pears or choko. The tubers juice well in an electric juicer and I use them to sweeten other juice combinations as well. The young stem can be used as a cooked vegetable.

Here’s a great spring recipe for organic fruit and veges:

Sweet Spring Juice

  • 2 medium peeled yacon roots
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 green apples
  • ¼ of a small cabbage
  • 1 large stick of celery

Method

Process the fruit and vegetables in an electric juicer. You can add or reduce ingredients to suit your taste.

The other great thing about Yacon is that it’s low in calories. The tubers store carbohydrate in the form of inulin, a type of fructose, which is a suitable food for type II diabetics. If you don’t want to eat it yourself, Yacon has potential as a forage crop for animals as the leaves have a high protein content and when cut, the foliage sprouts again from the underground stems. The tubers may be a good cattle feed: inulin is rapidly metabolised by ruminants. What a plant!

Yacon Leaves

Yacon leaves can be used as animal forage

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