Yacon: How To Plant And Use The Superfood Tuber

Yacon looks inconspicuous, but is a real super tuber. It is not only versatile in the kitchen, but also a medicinal plant. You can learn more about it here.

What is Yacon?

Yacon originally comes from South America and is still rather unknown in our country. The plant belongs to the composite family and is a perennial and herbaceous plant. Perennial means that the plant has a life span of more than one year. A plant is herbaceous if it does not become woody like shrubs or trees. Both are also true of primrose or arnica, for example. Yacon is also related to the sweet potato and its orange-yellow flowers resemble those of the sunflower. The leaves of the yacon plant are also striking. They can grow up to 20 centimeters long and 35 centimeters wide.

Yacon is grown mainly for its edible roots. According to a publication by the European Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE), the tubers consist mainly of water and carbohydrates, mainly fructans, mono- and disaccharides. The rest are oligofructose and inulin. These are sugars that are indigestible for humans. However, this is not a bad thing, on the contrary: when you eat yacon, bifidobacteria multiply in the intestines and ensure a good and healthy intestinal environment. For this reason, yacon is said to help stimulate the metabolism and reduce feelings of hunger. According to the BZfE, calcium and vitamin C are other ingredients of yacon, along with sugar. The calorie content is 20 calories per 100 grams.

Buying yacon is still difficult in our country. It is easier to grow it yourself. You can buy either rhizomes or young plants from specialized online retailers.

How to grow yacon yourself

Yacon is a rather undemanding plant. Nevertheless, you can follow a few tips when planting it.

  • Timing: As soon as it stops freezing, you can plant yacon. This is usually the case from mid-May.
  • Location: A wind-protected, sunny location is best for yacon, for example on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. There should also be sufficient space, as the plant can grow up to two meters high.
  • Soil: Sandy and light soils are recommended. It is best to add some compost so that your plant gets enough nutrients. A layer of mulch over the soil is also recommended, as this will protect the yacon from pests or weeds. Also, be sure to buy peat-free soil, as it doesn’t require draining boggy areas. You can learn more about this in the following article: Why you’d better buy peat-free soil – and where to find it.

Now all you need is a large flower pot and rhizomes. These are yacon earth sprouts. You can buy them online, for example.

If these points are given, you can start planting.

  • Fill potting soil and sand mixed in a flower pot that is at least 60 centimeters wide, because the plant grows very large. You should also keep this distance in the bed.
  • Form a three to five centimeter deep hole in the soil and put the rhizomes in it.

Carefully cover the sprouts with soil and water them.
In the beginning, yacon grows slowly, but you don’t have to worry. This is quite normal. First, the leaves develop until the soil is reasonably covered. After two to three months, the plant will grow faster and can reach two meters in height.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when caring for and harvesting the plant

After planting, Yacon will grow almost by itself. However, there are a few things you should pay attention to in order to properly care for your plant.

  • In the beginning you should weed regularly. After a while, the noticeably large leaves will develop and you won’t have to weed as often.
  • You should water the yacon plant at least once a day. Make sure, however, that no waterlogging occurs.
  • You do not need to fertilize the yacon if you have added compost to the soil or if there is a layer of mulch on the surface. If you do want to give it a little extra help, a potassium-rich fertilizer is recommended. Read also: The best organic fertilizer.
  • If you have planted and cared for the plants properly, you can harvest between October and November. The harvest time can vary slightly. However, you can easily tell when it is time by looking at the leaves.

At the first light frost, the leaves dry out or die. Then it is time to dig up the tubers. It can also happen that some tubers break off. However, this does not matter, you can still use them later.

Then you have to separate the tubers from the rhizomes. The tubers are larger and thicker and resemble potatoes. The rhizomes are roots or shoots.

Overwintered only the rhizomes, not the whole plant. This means that everything above ground must be discarded. You can then simply cut off the dead leaves. They go on the compost. Yacon is also very sensitive to frost. Therefore, overwinter the rhizomes in a flower pot in a frost-free, not too dry location. Then cover them lightly with soil in the pot.

Now you should wash the tubers and dry them well. The latter is important so that your yacon tubers do not start to mold. It is best to store the tubers in a cool and dry place, similar to potatoes. Read more here: Storing potatoes: these 7 tips will keep them fresh for a long time. The longer you store them, the sweeter the yacon tubers become. They are still ripening.

If you now feel like growing more fruits or vegetables besides yacon, we have some interesting information for you in the following article: Create a natural garden: fruits and vegetables fresh from the organic garden.

How you can use yacon

Yacon was already known to the Incas as a medicinal and useful plant. Thanks to the inulin it contains, yacon is said to stimulate the metabolism, improve the intestinal environment and thus help with diets. It is also believed that yacon helps against diabetes and depression.

You can also use yacon in the kitchen. There are several ways to prepare the tuber. You can eat it raw or use it in soups, stews and stir-fries.

You can also make a syrup from the tuber. This is good for sweetening desserts or drinks.