Thursday, December 20, 2007

Our next big food cultivar: Yacon

I was introduced to Yacon by Carolyn, a good friend of Patrick Gracewood's. She tends her vegetable garden at his studio space, and is a big fan of the plant. Yacon is a South American plant that readily grows in Oregon. It produces tubers that are not only tasty and easy to store (just store in the cellar in boxes full of sawdust -- will last all winter), but are reported to have multiple health benefits, not the least of which is stabilizing blood sugar levels.

When we heard of a tuber vegetable someone was excited for us to try in our garden, we were all skeptical. Our last experience with this kind of talk involved Sunchokes, or Jerusalem Artichokes. An old roommate of ours told us these would be great garden vegetables, producing big tall flowers as well as tasty food. The tubers, when steaming hot and buttered, were pretty good. But once they cooled the "odd" aspect of their flavor became so pronounced they were all but inedible. This same strong flavor dominated any dish you tried to introduce them into. We tried to remove the patch we had, and had to re-remove these pernicious plants for 2 more seasons before they were all the way gone.

So, we were skeptical about the Yacon. Carolyn showed me her stand in N.E. and the foliage was really dandy. The plants were tall and vigorous, and provided a nice screen along one side of her garden. She offered some of the tubers for us to taste test, and sure enough they were as billed -- like Jicama, only better. Crisp, very sweet, and juicy -- they immediately got the thumbs up from T. and The Wife. So now we just need to find a spot to put them.

If anyone out there has grown them I'd like to hear your stories. I'll report back as we introduce them into our garden this season.

[picture was grabbed from this commercial Yacon site -- show your love and check it out, they provide the photo and I'll provide a bit of traffic for them]

Enjoy your exotic, utilitarian, medicinal plants,



Tate said...

hmmm sounds good, but are the invasive?? i would be interested in knowing more about this for our garden

Trappin' Pat said...

Speaking of invasive, are they Real Easy to grow? (ie. probably invasive) I'd like to try to grow some. I'm a pretty lazy gardener.

Speaking of plants, the carnivorous plant guy (Sarrcenia NW) is selling indoor and outdoor plants at Saturday Market (might call first he might not be there everyday). I picked up one of each last weekend.

Bpaul said...

There doesn't seem to be any problem with the plant being invasive, but it does grow well here. That was one of our concerns too, a-la the Sunchoke incident.

Once you harvest it, you keep the base to replant for next year, like you would for a Dahlia (which is a cousin).

It does like sun, though the spot Carolyn had them in was only partial sun and the tubers still taste dandy.

Pat -- oooh --- now that's tempting :-)

My idea is to create a carnivorous plant menagerie on shelves between the chicken coop and the compost pile. They'll never want for food, ever.

matt_stansberry said...

Can they grow in winter? You do a winter garden up your way?

Bpaul said...

Winter gardens do happen up this way, but mostly in cloches.

Yacon is a summer grower, fall harvest type vegetable. You let it gather up energy from the dying plant (like potatoes) then harvest it by digging it up. You separate the edible tubers off the crown then just keep the crown for planting the next spring.