We have been experimenting with a new plant in the kitchen garden this year.
Yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a perennial daisy, closely related to sunflowers and the Jerusalem Artichoke. Its fleshy tubers originate in the Andes, where they have been cultivated on the mountainous slopes above the Amazon since the Pre-Columbian era. It is locally known as the Peruvian Ground Apple and is considered a refreshing snack after a long day working in the heat, though it has been largely unknown by the international community until recently. New health trends have only just started picking up on its beneficial qualities and it has started appearing in health shops across the UK.
A fully grown plant stands two meters tall and its size is reflected in our harvest, as the Dahlia-like tubers are huge. The flesh of the tuber is pale white and it has the consistency of water chestnut, something we found to be a bit of an issue as we went to dig them up, as they are very brittle. The plant has an equally large requirement for good fertile soil and grows as vigorously as the Jerusalem Artichoke, though it does not tolerate heavy frosts as well. We have allowed the tubers to stay in the ground through a few night frosts, however, as this sweetens the flavour.
So far you won’t find it on our menu, but with a bit of patience you may just get to taste something truly novel.