Yacon is an interesting shrub, native to South America and grown by a few select communities. Yacon is healthy, completely edible, fully sustainable, and is really fun to grow. It grows to about 5′ tall with small sunflower like flowers. The leaves of the plant are medicinal and can be harvested to make tea. The tubers that grow below the ground are harvested in the fall if the plant in lifted in your growing zone. When grown in warmer climates similar to their tropical native climate, they can be harvested directly from the ground. The tubers are produced in about 6 months or so.
In addition to being a great medicinal plant, it also fixes nitrogen and is great for your garden and compost!
The part of the plant that yields the plant stalk and two types of underground tubers, the reddish rhizome directly at the base of the stem which is called a crown and the larger longer brown tubers, which are the part that are mainly eaten. Our variety of yacon crown is purple and nobby. The knobs will produce plant stalks when planted with most crowns in their first year producing 4-6 stalks, with tuber growth below the plant. The tubers themselves will not yield a plant if it is replanted as you must plant a crown to grow yacon.
In our growing area, our plants are lifted following the first hard frost. At this time the plant will turn black and ugly. The top is cut away leaving enough stalk to lift the crown along with the tubers that have set. The whole crown with tubers attached are stored in a cool dry place safe from freezing temperatures.
The reddish rhizomes (yacon crown) along with the tubers are kept cool and dry, out of the sun using a bit of peat or dry compost to cover. Watch for any mold or change in appearance.
Throughout the winter, our tubers are harvested and processed, leaving the remaining crowns for planting next year’s crop of yacon. We find that storing the tubers on the crown this way allows them to be stored longer.
In later winter the crowns will begin to “wake” up and buds will form.As soon as the plant begins to “wake up” they should be planted. At this time, we plant the crown in a gallon pot about 1-2 inches below the soil line. The crown and growing yacon plant will need sun and water until risk of frost is passed. The starts we offer for sale are planted crowns in a gallon pot. Our yacon is planted at the time our tomatoes and peppers are ready for planting. The yacon plant will be about 12 inches tall and perfect for transplanting.
Yacon plants need a large enough space to set their tubers comfortably, about 2-3 ft apart. One crown will fill a half wine barrel sized container. Yacon can be grown in large containers, raised beds or directly in the ground. They require well drained and loose soil but plenty of water. They will let you know if they need water by looking droopy. No other special care is needed.
The yacon plant will take 6-7 months to set tubers. After the flowing top growth withers and dies back (after our first hard frost) the plant should be ready to harvest. In tropical climates they can be left in the ground and harvested directly from the soil.
When harvesting, the plant need to be lifted with care as the tubers need to be dug carefully to avoid damage to the tubers themselves. They are full of water and are crisp so can break easily is care I not taken when lifting.
After separation from the crown, the undamaged tubers can be stored in a cool dry place to “sweeten”. The sugar content will increase during storage because of starch conversion.
The yacon tubers taste like a cross between a watermelon and apple to some, and like a sweet juicy jicama to others. They can be eaten raw or cooked. First remove the brown outer skin and inner white flesh to reveal the amber colored sweet crunchy flesh. There are no seeds to remove and the entire flesh is edible. The tubers are a nice, crisp, sweet treat when eaten raw. They are also great in salads, fruit salads and a wonderful addition to smoothies. In the Andes they are grated and the juice is strained through a cloth to make a sweet refreshing drink.
If they are cooked they can be boiled, steamed or baked with other vegetables.
The juice can be boiled down to make a syrup used as a sweetener. In south America the juice is concentrated to form dark brown blocks of sugar called chancaca.
The leaves can be harvested, dried and used as a wonderful tea which tastes much like a mild green tea.
Healthy Notes to Consider
While this is a natural product whose active ingredients are not fully analyzed or exposed, it has been shown that the Yacon plant, specifically the leaves, can significantly help to alleviate diabetes. The leaves have been shown to help reduce the level of glucose in the blood, while both the tubers and the leaves help to stimulate the pancreas to help regulate the maintenance of blood sugars. The use of micro pulverized Yacon leaves in capsules for the treatment of diabetes has become more popular in modern times, especially in Japan.
Yacon is used for medicinal purposes mainly because it contains a type of sugar that is largely not metabolized by the human body. In the large intestine, this sugar helps increase the micro flora found in the latter part of the intestine, especially the bifido-bacteria. Therefore the bifido-bacteria stimulated by the consumption of yacon assist with decay of wastes, have fewer toxins and consequently there is less risk of colon cancer.
Key Tuber Benefits
- Effective to reduce the level of sugar in the blood
- Reduces cholesterol and triglycerides (hostile to atherosclerosis)
- Promotes the development of bifid bacteria and Bacillus subtilis in the colon
- Prevents the growth of putrefactive microorganisms that tend to cause diarrhea
- Assists with common stomach disorders such as heartburn, indigestion and gastric disorders
- It stimulates the synthesis of vitamin B
- Provides low-calorie sweet alternative
- Contains non-cariogenic sugars
- Controls constipation, increased excretion
- Strengthens the immune system and powerful antioxidant
- Prevents gastrointestinal infections
Reported Health Benefits of Yacon Tea:
- Renal and pancreatic stimulating effect
- Reduces blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides
- Can also reduce body weight and fat stores
- Colon cancer prevention and beneficial to colon health in general
- Strengthens the immune system response and high in anti-oxidants
- Beneficial in the prevention of atherosclerosis
Tubers can be found in white, orange and purple varieties. The most common variety is the white and is most readily available. The yacon we currently offer have brown to purple skin with cream flesh tubers and purple crowns.
Our yacon was originally purchased from a local farmer so the exact varietal is unknown. We have been growing yacon since 2003 and our yacon is certified organic.
Yacon Tea Leaves– Available in bulk
Yacon leaves are harvested thru the growing season without harming the growing plant. Leaves are dried and process into loose tea and available for sale in bulk 1 ounce bags. A little bit goes a long way with many cups of tea brewed from an ounce bag. A teaspoon of tea leaves will be sufficient to make a nice mild brew. We recommend using your tea bag at least once again. This mild tea taste much like a green tea in flavor and goes well blended with other teas as well. Our summer favorite is yacon and mint tea.
(Feel free to contact us for additional information and/or recipes)
- The Gardener’s Pantry
- Yacón Plant
- Planting Guide (pdf)
We are currently TAKING ORDERS for yacon starts for Spring 2021. Contact us through the season for sales. Yacons tubers are available in the Fall after the first hard frost date and sold locally.
Yacon Tubers: $4.00/lb ( local sales only – SOLD OUT UNTIL FALL 2021)
Yacon Crowns: $12.00 (SOLD OUT – taking orders for fall 2021 harvest)
Yacon Starts: Generous sized crown in gallon pot $17.00 each. (Taking orders for spring 2021).
Please email us at email@example.com. for additional pricing details which are dependent upon quantity.