How to Grow Yacon

Productive Plant Profile – Yacon

Full Sun  |  Edible Roots  | Drought Hardy

Botanical Name: Smallanthus sonchifolius

Family: Asteraceae

Common Names:  Peruvian Ground Apple, Bolivian Sunroot, Sweet Root

Origin: Native to Columbia and Equator in South America

Description

Yacon is a hardy, tall herbaceous perennial 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. 

Cultivation

Yacon produces large brown underground tubers for eating and small red rhizomes which are used for propagating new plants.   These rhizomes are best planted in in early spring after any risk of frost.  The plants will grow quickly in most conditions, but thrive in fertile well-drained soil.  Mulch well at the time of planting and the plants are quite drought tolerant once established.  To harvest the brown tubers after the flowers and leaves have completely died back in early winter.

Propagation

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.  

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.

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