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The Yacón

January 2, 2011

The yacón is a mysterious vegetable.  I discovered it when talking with the fanatical farmer at the 5th and South farmers’ market one Tuesday evening last fall.  The  yacón takes 6-10 months to grow, looks like a sweet potato, and can be eaten raw or cooked.  The fanatical farmer just happen to be organically growing some in his back yard in Lancaster and generously gave me two, talked to me about growing them, and shared his extensive collection of research on the yacón.  I was surprised to learn that they are known for helping diabetics control their blood sugar.

Peeled and sliced

When raw, the moisture is incredible; many compare it to the watermelon for this reason.  The crunchiness is similar to a water chestnut.  Cooked, the yacón is light in flavor, moist, and mains a slight crunchy texture.  I cooked one, and added the second one raw to a fruit salad.  I preferred the yacón raw, and found that it gave a fun taste and texture change to my fruit salad.

So where do these mysterious bundles of tastiness come from?  Originally the yacón is found in South America and is typically eaten like a fruit.  It’s planted in January or February and transferred outside at the same time tomatoes would be, as they are very frost sensitive!  Huge stalks grow above the ground, and small marble size nodules grow just below the ground.  The nodules are the seeds for the next years crop.  Below the nodules are the curious, sweet potato like, yacóns.  After a ten month growing process (well, ten months in the Lancaster growing climate) the yacón can be harvested and stored for lengthy amounts of time  in damp pete moss.

In terms of availability, they are not common to come by in Philadelphia.  The best way to find and enjoy the yacón is to grow it.  If you have the space in your yard, give it a whirl, the yacón is a fascinating little veggie.

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