Yacón Tubers and Growing Tips

January 28, 2009 · Filed Under Featured Plant, Food and Drink, Garlic 

Yacon Tuber

I’ve posted a couple of times about the yacon plants I grew this year with stem tubers from my friend Frank in Belgium.  Of all of my Lost Crops of the Incas, this may have turned out to be the most interesting.

In the picture above you see the large tuber on the right, weighing in at about a kilogram.  The white things you see on the left are ‘yacón chips’, made by slicing the tuber thinly and drying the pieces in the dehydrator.  The small thing on the bottom right is a small cluster of three stem tubers, one of which has started growing already.

This plant is incredibly productive.  Supposedly it’s three times as productive as potatoes in the same space, and each plant yields about 10Kg of tubers!  Partly as a result, the plants take up a lot of space in the garden.  Each plant needs 90-100cm is all directions.  The tops of the plants are quite large as well, and can shade other nearby plants.  Growing the plants in a block, can help them provide support for one another, and in any case some extra support may be needed.  In my garden they grew to about 1.5m in height.

The basic procedure is to start growing the stem tuber indoors in February, then plant out after the last frost date.  When starting them indoors, keep in mind the plants will grow pretty quickly, so be sure to give them a large enough pot.  The first frost in the fall will kill the tops of the plants, which are quite frost tender, and they will shrivel soon afterwards.  You can then cut the stem at about 20cm from the ground and carefully dig up the roots.  The roots are very easily damaged, so be careful when digging them.  If you don’t get a frost before the winter solstice, you should probably dig the plants around then anyway.

After digging up the plant, place it in a wooden or plastic container with some holes at the bottom to let water drain.  It’s probably best not to disturb the tubers by washing them.  Place the plants in a root cellar or unheated room, protected from frost.  Leave uncovered and don’t eat for at least the first month, because in this time the tubers will become sweeter.  After the first month, you can cover the tubers with sand or peat if you want, but I didn’t find this necessary.  In any case you do need to keep them from drying out too much, and I did this by covering them loosely with a damp towel.  Simply eat tubers over the course of the winter as desired, and in February harvest the stem tubers for next years plants.

Eating

The taste is nice, but not really outstanding.  In fact the biggest problem I had was Steph doesn’t care for it at all, so I was stuck eating both of the plants I grew on my own, and that was just too much for me.  I’ve still only eaten about half of what I grew, but it’s still storing well.  I’ve even given some of it away already.

It’s a bit of a problem that most of the tubers seem to weigh more than a kilo, too much for just me to eat, and they don’t store well after being cut open.

The skin is a little bitter, so I think most people will prefer to peel it.  It is nice raw, crispy juicy with the taste of a melon but not so intense.  It is very high in sugar, but not ordinary sugars.

It can also be sauteed in butter, until the sugar carmelizes a bit.  This is probably my favorite way to eat it.

I understand it can also be added to stirfrys, but I haven’t tried this.  I don’t like sweet things in my stirfrys, and since Steph won’t eat it I would have to make a one person stirfry, which I don’t do often anyway.

You can make yacón chips, like in the picture above by putting it in a dehydrator.  I didn’t pretreat the yacón before drying it, just sliced it thinly.  The taste of the chips is similar to dried fruit, perhaps well suited as an exotic party snack.  The taste becomes more intense after drying.  Time will tell if I still like eating the chips in a few months…

Beyond this you can make yacón wine, and there are some companies selling yacón syrup.  I understand in theory at least, it has the potential to be a good plant to make biofuel from, because the sugars can easily be converted to alcohol.

Because the sugar is not ‘real’ sugar, it tends to leave you a little unsatisfied after eating it.  I understand the special sugars can also give you wind if you eat too much, but I don’t seem to have that problem.  Eating too much can give you a real empty/full feeling.

Tubers Available!

Okay, so if after reading this you are convinced you want to try growing it, you’re in luck because I have some stem tubers available.

I’m a little concerned about making an offer like this, because among other things there’s been lots of interest expressed over the Internet and a lot of people are looking for tubers.  Real Seeds in the UK just reported they had a crop failure this year, so I seem to be the only source in Europe at the moment!  I don’t have enough to send out hundreds and hundreds of stem tubers, and I’m probably going to disappoint a lot of you who ask for some.  I probably only have 30 or 40 in total, and I’ll probably send most people who ask 2 of them.

At this point I don’t know for sure how many I have, and I don’t think I’ll know for sure until I start cutting the stem tubers off in a couple of weeks.  I would like to start collecting a list of people who are interested, so if you want some please send me an email now.  In the email please be sure to give me your address.  One way or another I will get back to you and let you know.

I’ve already promised a number of people I would send them tubers, and they have first priority.  After this, I will give priority to people who are closest to me geographically and/or express an intent to reoffer tubers next year via the Blogger Seed Network.  After this, I’ll give people who participate in this blog with comments or links from their own blogs.  After that it will be first come first served.

If I’ve already talked to you and said I would send you some tubers, I will send you an email in the next day or two.  If you don’t get an email, please get in touch.  My memory for this kind of thing is not very good!

Comments

43 Responses to “Yacón Tubers and Growing Tips”

  1. chzplz on January 28th, 2009 21:08

    Hmm… sounds not unlike Jerusalem Artichokes. Is the taste similar?

  2. Madeline McKeever on January 29th, 2009 2:35

    No, they don’t taste like artichokes, nor do they make you fart as much. They are very bland and absorb other flavours well, so are good with stronger tasting ingredients. We enjoy them in stir-fries where they take on flavours such as ginger and garlic while adding bulk and crunch. They are also good in salads both fruit and vegetable. My personal favourite is in a Waldorf type salad with blue cheese, apple, celery and walnut. Yacon sweetens up fruit salads. I have read that the carbohydrates balance blood sugars and in my experience is an appetite suppressant.

  3. Patrick on January 29th, 2009 12:23

    Madeline is right. Yacon and JA are both sweet, with the same type of sugar, but the flavors are different. Yacon is very bland.

    I never thought of yacon as taking on other flavors in a cooked dish, but I could see this, perhaps a bit like tofu does. The Waldorf salad sounds great.

  4. Frank on January 31st, 2009 16:18

    I’m just a bit to busy right now , but I should have a few hundred propagation tubers available..Anyway, since I placed them on SSE and Arche Noah, priority must be given to these two. Patrick, I’ll contact you a bit more extensive soon…I hope

  5. Ottawa Gardener on February 4th, 2009 1:17

    What do the yacon chips taste like? Do you salt them? I hear that lettin Yacon sit in the sun after harvest will increase the sugar content so they taste rather like a fruit – a melon – as you said.

  6. Patrick on February 4th, 2009 12:56

    Hi OG,

    The yacon chips taste like dried fruit. They have a soft texture close to dried pineapple, and they really stick to your molars when you chew them!

    When fresh, the taste of the tuber is very mild. After being dried, this becomes much more intense.

    No, I wouldn’t salt them, the flavor is sweet rather than savory.

    At harvest time, the sugars in the tubers are not fully developed. For this reason you need to let them sit (preferably uncovered) for about a month before you eat them. I too have heard if you leave the tubers in the sun it will speed this process, but the only time I tried the tuber rotted.

    In a dark, unheated, frost-free space the tubers store very well as long as they are still attached to the plant stem.

    If you like, I’ll send you a couple of chips… They aren’t heavy, and shouldn’t cost much to send.

  7. Ewa on March 4th, 2009 8:04

    Hi Patrick!
    My Jacon tubers arrived 2 days ago. Thank you. They are safe, in good condition and planted yesterday in the pots.
    I have one planting question. Should they be completely covered with soil? or little out? or completely out?
    snow is slowly melting in Poland – what a long winter…. sigh….

  8. Patrick on March 4th, 2009 12:56

    Hi Ewa,

    I’m glad the tubers arrived! I just got an email from someone else I sent tubers to a few weeks ago, and theirs didn’t grow. Do yours have a green tip on them? I’m worried several people may have the same problem, and maybe you too. Perhaps this is a problem because the tubers froze.

    Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t think it matters much. I usually cover them completely, but not very deep, maybe 0,5 cm or so. Be sure to put the green growing tip pointing up, but I guess you knew that already.

    Spring is starting here too. It’s the start of another gardening year!

  9. Chris on March 11th, 2009 0:19

    what a great blog. I have been trying to find a source for these since seeing Gardeners World earlier on in the year. I saw the realseeds crops failure which is not good. I tried their oca tubers last year and found those very interesting. I will be growing them again from saved seed. I would have liked to have tried yacon too but I think I will have to wait another year.

  10. Planting Out in the Heirloom Garden | Bifurcated Carrots on April 28th, 2009 15:54

    [...] is a really interesting plant, one of the so called Lost Crops of the Incas.  I did a post with pictures of the tubers here.  This has the potential to become a very important crop in the future.  It’s more [...]

  11. Stevil on October 25th, 2009 10:31

    Hi Pat: I harvested my Yacon yesterday and was trying to remember how to overwinter the tubers and what to do with the propagation tubers (I lost it during the winter last time I tried). Anyway, I found all I wanted to know here. So, thanks!

    They give a reasonable harvest here in a cold greenhouse, but not as big as yours..

    Stephen (Norway, 64.5N)

  12. Lieven on October 25th, 2009 21:13

    I really love yacon: so crisp & sweet – but only after curing them for a month or more, as Pat explains so well. I also find sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes nuttier to eat, but fartier to digest.
    This year most of my yacons didn’t so well, due to (a) that September drought, helped by a sandy soil and (b)the combination with Sarpo Mira potatoes, which competed rather too much.
    Fortunately, I also planted 1 yacon on one of my fields, 7 km away, quite loamy & with plenty of mulch & space & voles :-( & slugs :-( This one plant outyielded all the others, so I know in which basket I’ll have to put my eggs next year.

  13. Patrick on October 27th, 2009 14:29

    Hi guys!

    Everything I know about yacon came from Frank, but you probably knew that already. Anyway, I’m glad this post helped.

    My yacon seems to have done pretty well this year, but it’s still growing, so I don’t know. The last few frosts we had just killed the outer leaves, but the ones on the inside of the plant are still fine. The plants are big and healthy looking, so I’m hoping for the best…

    The thing I like about yacon over Jerusaleum Artichokes is it’s a lot easier to prepare, because the tubers are larger and easier to get the skin off and cooking is optional.

  14. Stuart Oxley on November 13th, 2009 15:04

    To Patrick.
    Regarding J. Artichokes; cooking is also optional for them (google ‘eat jerusalem artichokes raw’). And for an easier peeling (much less knobbly)variety try ‘Fuseau’. It is quite widely available and the foliage is shorter than the common knobbly variety. I’ve even seen this new straighter type for sale in gourmet food shops. I’ve got some Yacon in a very large pot that I’m hoping to get a good return on and I’m hoping my mum likes it as she is diabetic.

  15. Patrick on November 15th, 2009 18:03

    Thanks Stuart, and good luck with the yacon.

  16. Stuart Oxley on December 17th, 2009 10:49

    No problem. Incidentally, I’ve started harvesting both now and have excellent results despite it being my first time on each.
    The J. Artichokes are fantastic, huge and plentiful. We just dig em out as required. God do they make you fart! The first experience makes you feel a little bloated but by no means painfully and from then on its just plane farting, which is mercifully lacking in maloderousness.
    The plants themselves were given a few bags of compost (due to lack of nutrients in the soil) plus a couple of applications of fish, blood and bone. And I stuck a bit of root grow in each hole (mychorrhizae) to give them extra roots.
    Despite being utterly smothered in mildew from top to bottom the results kind of give a two finger salute to the pesky fungi.
    The Yacon also did well despite constantly drying out in its huge pot and I reckon has yielded between 7 & 10 kgs of edible tubers. The mildew couldn’t touch it though, even though it was surrounded by about 12 infected summer squashes. I’ll be doing both again next year for sure.

  17. ted on January 15th, 2010 4:43

    i just ate a BUNCH of yacon chips and haven’t stopped farting! i literally fart once or twice a minute!! what the hell is happening lol

  18. Jennifer on January 19th, 2010 2:31

    I would like to try Yacon in my garden this year…is there any available here? Or does anyone know where I could find some? Thanks!

  19. Patrick on January 19th, 2010 11:11

    Hi Jennifer,

    You don’t say where here is. If you let me know roughly where you’re located (state, province or country), I’ll ask around and see if anyone knows where you can get some.

  20. Jennifer on January 20th, 2010 3:42

    Thanks! I’m located in the U.S. : )

  21. Patrick on January 21st, 2010 12:01

    Hi Jennifer,

    I can’t find anyone who will just send you some from their garden, but you can buy some here:

    http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com/store/product-info.php?pid784.html

    Good luck.

  22. Jennifer on January 29th, 2010 5:18

    Thank you so much!

  23. Joan Lambert Bailey on May 23rd, 2010 3:14

    This post was really helpful, although I’m still looking for a bit of advice on growing yacon in pots. I don’t have room in the garden, but I could put a few big pots out on our balconies. Any thoughts on how big the pot needs to be per seedling? Or any other thoughts? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  24. Patrick on May 23rd, 2010 8:45

    Hi Joan,

    Yacon roots are quite large, and I think you’ll need a pretty big pot or maybe homemade planter. I think you’ll need something along the lines of 3ft x 3ft (length and width) and 2ft deep. It might work in something smaller.

    Good luck, and let us know if you find a good solution!

  25. buddha lama on June 17th, 2010 10:24

    hi i read your blog and thanks for information about yacon, i am from nepal, one farmer has farm this yacon but he doesnt teach us and give infor mation how to farm yaco so plz would you not mind plz inform me
    climate to grow
    tempreture
    wether
    soil type
    altitude
    and
    fartiliger method

    thanks again
    nepal

  26. Patrick on June 18th, 2010 6:46

    Hi Buddha Lama,

    yacon will grow in almost any climate, but the temperature must always be stay above freezing (> 0C).

    It will grow in almost any soil type, but it can’t be too hard. If you have clay, you should add sand or compost.

    It will grow at many altitudes. It is commonly grown in the Andes mountains, and I grow it at sea level. I’m not sure how high it can be grown.

    It doesn’t need any fertilizer, and will grow even in poor soil.

    You harvest the plants after they die from freezing or November, which ever comes first. Then store the plant indoors 1 month before eating it so it becomes sweet.

    Good luck. I hope this helps

  27. Gan Magar on November 17th, 2010 4:54

    I’m also interested in Yacon but is there any body in Nepal who can support?

  28. Patrick on November 18th, 2010 10:12

    Hello buddha lama and Gan Magar,

    You both just got an email from me.

  29. Gan Magar on November 18th, 2010 12:42

    Thanks Patric can you pass email please.

  30. Patrick on November 18th, 2010 12:50

    Hi Gan Magar,

    I’ve now sent 2 emails with buddha lama’s email address. If you didn’t get them, would you please send me an email at weblogbb@patnsteph.net ?

    I don’t want to publish buddha lama’s email address on the Internet.

  31. Gan Magar on November 22nd, 2010 4:41

    Thanks Patric i’m trying to contact Buddha.

  32. buddha lama on November 28th, 2010 11:32

    hi patrik
    thanks for mail.

    i am sorry thats i could not be in time bcoz i have been long at remote for instalation essenstial oil plan. after one month it will be run and i can produce wintergreen and mugwort ( fleabame) oil by destilation method. i want to harbest yacon comercially so i need seedling . wrere can i get it . pls send me information i will be waiting your kind information. thanks
    buddha lama
    napal

  33. Patrick on December 5th, 2010 8:06

    Hi Buddha,

    We just had some cold weather here, and I’m not sure if my yacon tubers are still alive, but if so I’ll be happy to send you some propagation tubers or small plants. I’ll send you an email as soon as I know.

  34. gaynor bailey on January 14th, 2011 17:11

    Hi,
    These sound really unusual and I would like to give them a try. I love jerusalem artichokes and maybe they will add to my allotments unusual tubers. Im trying oca for the first time so I wouldnt mind trying these.

  35. Patrick on January 17th, 2011 11:40

    Hi Gaynor,

    I’m not sure yet if I have any extra this year or not. I’ll send you an email.

  36. gaynor bailey on January 17th, 2011 11:52

    Hi,
    Thanks for your reply it would be great if you had any spare to try but if not I will try any get it from the link you sent me. When is the best time to plant these and after digging the tubers do you replant straight away or keep them frost free untill the frost has gone.
    Many thanks
    Gaynor

  37. Alan Brooks on December 1st, 2011 16:47

    I have wanted to grow yaco for some time as my partner is Diabetic and every thing I read about using it sounds great for her as well as using the leaves like grape vine leaves to make food parcels and edible, what a great food source.

  38. Carrot tuber | Click4songs on May 3rd, 2012 22:48

    [...] Yacón Tubers and Growing Tips | Bifurcated CarrotsCloning – which is what happens when a potato plant grows from each tuber rqather than just one rot as in the carrot – is less common than … [...]

  39. sudarson karki on June 8th, 2012 8:41

    If any one is interested in yacon farming or want information concerning yacon ,plz contact me.
    9841219698 (NEPAL)

  40. Vicki Cagan on July 16th, 2012 18:14

    Thank you for this blog. I live in New Zealand and have grown a yakon plant for the 1st time and wasn’t sure what to do with it. Winter has arrived and I’m about to harvest. This has been helpful.

  41. Patrick on July 17th, 2012 13:20

    Thanks for the comment Vicki. Good luck with your plant.

  42. Charlie H. Barrett on August 20th, 2012 7:51

    Does anyone know if you can bed the yacon tubers, like sweet potstoes and pull slips from them, like sweet potatoes? Please let me know if you can slip them and them live.

  43. Patrick on August 21st, 2012 10:07

    CHB:

    I live too far north to grow sweet potatoes, so I don’t have any first hand experiences with bedding and making slips. I also think growing yacon commercially is a fairly new thing, and it’s possible no one has tried what you’re doing.

    Having said that, it sounds good to me, and worth trying. If you try it, would you please let us know how it goes?

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