Yacon: Edible Perennial Tubers

In my effort to grow every kind of edible perennial as is possible in my area, I came across a new plant called Yacon (ya-kon).

Of course, it isn’t really new. It’s actually been a staple crop to the indigenous people of the Andes of Peru for like forever. But it has only recently made its way to the United States.

harvested yacon tubers
harvested yacon tubers

Yacon grows edible tubers on the root system, much the same as the way potatoes grow. But the taste is nothing like a potato…

Fresh Yacon tubers are crisp and juicy with a delicate flavor reminiscent of apple or melon and a surprising sweetness that increases in storage. They can be eaten raw, (fresh or dried) steamed, baked, roasted, or juiced. The somewhat bitter skin can be scrubbed off with a stiff brush, peeled with a vegetable peeler, or removed after baking. One of our favorite recipes is to simply chop the peeled tubers into bite-size pieces and saute them in a little butter until the sugar begins to caramelize. Serve with mashed potatoes topped with fresh parsley.

While satisfyingly sweet and flavorful, Yacon remains low in calories. This is due to the fact that the sugar contains high levels of oligofructose (inulin), a form of sugar that is not metabolized readily by the human body. For this reason, Yacon shows much promise as a food for diabetics and as a base for a low calorie sweetener. Even a tea made from dried Yacon leaves is purported to have the ability to level out blood sugar levels. Research on the benefits of Yacon for diabetics is being carried out in Argentina and Japan. Oligofructose is known to aid digestion and promote beneficial bacteria in the colon, so it may also help prevent colon cancer. High in fiber, low in fat, and rich in oligofructose, Yacon is considered by many to be a superfood of the future.

Seeds of Change

It can’t be grown as a perennial in all areas, but in mild climates the plant’s crown can be left in the ground over winter protected by a heavy layer of mulch.

Mother Earth News also wrote a really interesting article on Yacon a few years back, that you might be interested in checking out. This Article is also very informative!

What’s also cool about Yacon is that you can juice the tubers and cook the liquid down to create a sweet syrup!

For right now, I have our Yacon growing in a large plastic tub. But these plants need a growing space of at least three feet in diameter, and they grow to five feet tall, so I really need to be preparing a more permanent bed where these plants won’t shade other crops.

yacon plant growing in pot

If you are interested in adding Yacon to your garden or edible landscape, you may have a hard time finding any plants locally, and they do not grow well from seed. Chances are you’ll have to order plants online. I ordered mine this past Spring from Horizon Herbs.

My plants aren’t big enough to harvest from yet, but I’m excited that they’ve done well so far! I can’t wait to try the sweet tubers.

Have you ever tried Yacon? Are you growing it as well?

7 thoughts on “Yacon: Edible Perennial Tubers”

  1. I live in ak. And read about Yakon so decided to try growing it here. I have two plants growing at this time in my green house (unheated). Will move them to my heated garage/shop soon. I bought the plants from a grower in arbuckle, ca. Will let you know how they turn out later. Natha

  2. I wish I’d known I could have gotten you some starts this spring! Some friends gave us starts last year so we tried it for the first time – about 20 plants in the garden. They did pretty well, we had a number of tubers when it came time to dig them in the fall. Unfortunately, they never “cured” to a good sweetness. You can’t eat them right away but have to wait a month or so. They were crisp but never sweet like the ones we’d tasted at our friends. We’re giving it another try this year and hoping to store them in a way they will taste more how they are supposed to. Good luck with yours! Another thing this friend gave that you really need to try is roselle (hibiscus). It makes great tea and a great cranberry substitute sauce. I can get you some seeds for it next year if you’d like.

  3. I been trying to get hold of Yacon tubers to have a go growing it, its not easy to track down here in the UK…
    I’ve finally found someone that supplies it so hoping fingers crossed that I’ll be able to try some next year.
    Does sounds very interesting.

  4. Living in Milwaukee, we have tons of ethnic restaurants here so I was able to “try before I grow” at an Ecuadorian restaurant. Yucca is dee-licious. The write up in your post is right on. It fried up well with the pork and greens that I had and really had a delicous flavor. More punch than a potatoe, but less punch than a rutabaga. I’m definately going to try these in my own yard.


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