1 great vege for garden & gut
It’s an ugly vege with a fruit flavour flavour and perfect for winter
It’s a crunchy, juicy,
watermelony, cucumbery vege you can harvest in the depths of the New Zealand winter, and this great taste is the best reason to grow yacons ( Smallanthus sonchifolius).
These humble tubers are one of my favourite vegetables. While they seem to be a bit of an acquired taste, I hear through the gardening grapevine that they are sprouting up all over New Zealand.
They are certainly popular in South America where they have been grown for so long that the flowers produce no fertile pollen and yacons can only be propagated by dividing the rhizome crown.
Yacons are related to Jerusalem artichokes, but they are slightly easier to control. It is true that they will grow from a very small rhizome like an artichoke but yacons don't spread as vigorously because of the infertility of their seeds.
My first yacon clump came from a friend in Northland back in the mid-90s and I have been carting offspring from that original around ever since, planting them here and there and everywhere in the hope that they will 'catch on, yacon'. One huge plus for me is that yacons don't tend to give me massive gas attacks when I eat them. In contrast, I call Jerusalem artichokes 'farty chokes' just so you know what I mean!
Scientist and organic gardener Alan Kapuler has been studying yacons for more than 20 years. His work has shown yacons stimulate good bacteria in the human gut but also in the soil, so growing yacons looks to be a good thing for guts and gardens.
The sweet flavour of a yacon tuber is enhanced by the first frosts and they are often referred to as 'the apple of the earth'. Some people describe the taste as a cross between an apple and a watermelon. Others feel i it is more like cucumber or e even celery. I've also seen i it described as a 'fruitl like vegetable' and as an ' 'underground pear'.
Yacons are high in fibre and have a super-low calorie content, making them ideal as a quick snack. The tubers and the leaves contain high levels of inulin, a form of sugar humans cannot easily break down. This might seem to be a black mark against the poor yacon, but on the up side, inulin aids digestion and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine, while inhibiting toxic bacteria. Beneficial gut bacteria is all the rage on the health scene and has led to yacon syrup being promoted as a super food.
I'd like to try it but at $30 for 300ml, it's just a bit beyond my budget. I'll stick to eating them raw and unadulterated thanks.
I have been carting my yacon around NZ for 20+ years
Fresh yacon roots.