FE Hollis, one of our fabulous customers, has sent us some home-grown Yacon (smallanthus sonchifolius) tuber also known as earth pear. We’d never tried it before, so were chuffed with this treat and we’ve done some digging (sorry, couldn’t resist) to discover more about this tasty root.
Yacon is amazing in salads as it naturally absorbs sauces and dressings! The sweet flavour is due to a substance called inulin, which gives food sweetness without adding any calories.
It’s certainly an impressive plant, a relative of Dahlia it will grow to 7 feet high and can produce more than 7kg of edible tuber. It’s suitable for most moderate climates and requires 6 to 7 months to reach its full potential, so it makes sense to start the plants off indoors. The edible tubers are produced in the autumn and should be harvested in winter after the first frosts have killed off the foliage.
Yacon needs a consistent moisture level and will not react well to periods of over or under watering. It produces small yellow flowers in warmer climates - the foliage is similar to a dahlia’s and makes a wonderful addition to a perennial border.
When the foliage has blackened, trim the stems and lift the whole root using a garden fork taking care not to damage any of the tuber. You can store the edible tuber in a cool, dry place for up to 8 months - the tuber will gradually increase in sweetness during this time.
Store the crown in a cool frost-free area over the winter. In late winter take the crown out of storage and plant in a pot using good quality potting compost. Once green shoots are showing, divide the crown ensuring that each part has at least one growing point. Once the risk of frost has passed the crowns can then be planted outside.