Unusual Vegetable Plants


Yacon - Smallanthus Sonchifolius.

The Yacon is another little known plant that comes from South America and Peru in particular. The common name is the Peruvian Ground Apple due to the fact that it can be eaten raw and has a crunchy freshness to it.

In many ways it is very similar in its growing habits to the Jerusalem Artichoke as it reaches a height of some 2 metres with luxuriant top growth and huge leaves hiding its edible tubers that grow under the soil in bunches again like the Jerusalem Artichoke. However, the tubers, or Rhizomes are more torpedo shaped and can grow to an individual weight of a couple of pounds. Like Artichokes they are produced at the end of the season when daylight hours are shortening, but the leafy tops can be taken by an early frost that will stop development. Larger tubers can be harvested immediately, or left safely in the ground below frost level until wanted. Smaller tubers can be replanted straight away for the following season as long as they have a growing eye on them.

Yacon tubers contain a natural sweetener called “Inulin,” that is indigestible and as such the tubers are very tasty to eat, but have an extremely low calorie value. Because of this sweet aspect there is much interest in making a syrup from the plant for diabetics and dieters to use in their meals. The tubers are also high in antioxidants, which makes them even more appealing to many as a health food. Other uses for this versatile plant include making a tea preparation from it and cooking it like a sweet chestnut to be used in stir fries and the like.

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