Yacon – Smallanthus sonchifolius (Apple of the Earth).
Yacon is a plant native to Colombia and Ecuador. It is a perennial plant that produces tubers with a crunchy crispness. Yacon are happy to grow in most moist soil types and can be slow to begin, however once started will quickly grow to heights of around 2 metres and will flower around autumn. It will take around 6-7 months to reach maturity and under the soil in late autumn the plant will produce two sets of roots, one will be the edible tubers and one which is mainly used for propagation.
After flowering, the top growth will wither and die back. This is when the tubers will be ready for harvesting. Once harvested, the tubers can be exposed for up to two weeks which will accelerate their sweetening.
Yacon has a crunchy texture. It is sweet, juicy and free from calories. It can be eaten fresh, mixed in with salads and cooked as a snack or a meal. The leaves of the plant can also be eaten and used in cooking.
The plant can die after frosty weather however it can be stored by digging up and drying out and kept in a cool, dry place. Any roots left in the ground should re-shoot.