Productive Plant – Yacon
by Debbie Bassingthwaighte
Botanical Name: Smallanthus sonchifolius
Common Names: Peruvian Ground Apple
Description: This is a hardy, tall perrenial to 2 metres high. It yields a large harvest of sweet, brown, juicy, underground tubers that are harvested in winter when the plant dies back. It is a member of the sunflower family and has pretty yellow flowers. New plants can be grown by replanting the red rhizomes that grow under the base of the stem. Store these rhizomes in a cool, dark place covered with sand or sawdust over winter, and then plant them 5cm deep and about 50cm apart in early spring. Mulch well and the plants are quite drought tolerant once established.
Culinary Uses: The brown side tubers resemble sweet potatoes and can be peeled and eaten raw in salads, or boiled, steamed or baked in place of potatoes. They can also be juiced for a drink, or the juice can be boiled and reduced to produce a syrup. Yacon tubers are high in the carbohydrate inulin and low in kilojoules.
Other Uses: Yacon is also a useful forage crop for animals because the leaves have a high protein content.