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Superfood - Yacon - health benefits and a how to grow guide

Ground apples, my kids sure think they are, they love fresh sweet yacon, we have been harvesting it all winter long, we add it to salads vegetable and fruit, juice it,and it's been a great healthy addition to school lunch boxes.

Yacon belongs to the sunflower family but unlike the sunflower, this plant is mostly grown for its roots that are edible, sweet and highly nutritious. Although very sweet and popularly used as a sugar alternative, Yacon is surprisingly low in calories. When compared to other root vegetables like taro, potato and sweet potato, Yacon is found to have the lowest calorific value, which makes it a perfect diet food option. It is a good source of protein, fiber and vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin B1, vit B2 and vit C Yacon tuber is also rich in essential minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. It can also provide your body with as many as 20 vital amino acid

Some of the health benefits of yacon include its ability to regulate blood sugar levels, lower “bad” cholesterol, help with weight loss, lower blood pressure, improve the health of the liver, prevent certain types of cancer, boost digestive health, and strengthen the immune system.

Yacon contains a type of sugar called fructooligosaccharide, which lowers levels of triglycerides and low-densisy lipoprotein, making it good for diabetics.

Yacon root contains compounds that function as prebiotics in the body. These prebiotic properties have an influence in the development of microflora in the digestive tract.

How to grow

Yacon is a hardy plant that is easy to grow. It seems to tolerate most soil types pretty well, but ideally should be grown in free-draining soil rich in organic matter. They prefer direct sunlight but can grow reasonably well in the shade.

The crowns (purply, pink and white in photo) usually grow at the base of the stalk just underneath the ground, and sometimes peak above.

Each crown can be broken/cut off and planted separately, keep in mind the smaller they are the more susceptible to damage they are too.

The infant tuber (edible root) can be left intact if it is not damaged. Trim off damaged tubers to avoid rot.

The biggest enemy for Yacon is frosts during its early stages. So best to plant when warmer or cover when frosts are due. Planting is usually best around September to November.

Before planting the Yacon crown, loosen the soil about 400mm deep and 400mm wide to make it easy for the large Yacon tubers to grow. Plant the crown about 3cm below the surface and give it a good water. Space out multiple crowns about 700mm apart.

Sometimes the crowns will be sent with a bit of greenery. This can help them get bit of a head-start, especially if they are planted late in the season. If the greenery doesn’t bounce back after planting and watering (next day) it is best to trim back below any leaves. New leaves should still grow from the stem joints.

Keep the area well weeded initially to give the Yacon a chance to get going. Once they get taller the Yacon forms bit a canopy and doesn’t require much weeding. They can grow over 2m tall so make quite a statement in the garden!

Towards the end of the Yacon growing season, usually around June, the Yacon flowers (small yellow flowers like miniature Sunflowers). This is the best time to harvest, but they can be harvested later also. They can stay in the ground longer also as long as the ground is free draining.

Once harvested, the tubers will keep for months kept in a cool and dark place. They are delicious raw or cooked (if using raw a bit of lemon juice can be used to stop them browning).

The crowns will grow larger each season and can be divided for more Yacon plants. Keep the crowns in a cool dark place (covered in a bit of soil is best) and plant next season.

Pop over to my online shop where you can buy your own crowns, and grow this beautiful superfood in your own backyard.

Plant blessings and good luck, remember sustainablitiy begins in your own back yard.

Have fun with this amazing plant!