While staying in the Hinterland of Byron Bay, Australia, I visited 3 different farmers’ markets- heaven. Two of them had this weird looking thing on display at different fruit and vegetable stalls. I assumed it was a kind of potato or yam, but it turns out it is more like a fruit. It is sometimes called the “underground pear”, but its real name is Yacon.
Yacon comes from the Northern and central Andes. It is the tuberous root of a perennial daisy. Although it looks like a potato, and you do peel it like one, it tastes like a very very sweet pear with a touch of watermelon and celery. A fruit disguised as a vegetable.
The texture of the tuber is a little like water chestnut and they are refreshingly juicy. “Yacon” means “water root” in the Inca language and its tubers are highly valued as a wild source of thirst-quenching refreshment for travellers. The liquid can also be drawn off and concentrated to produce yacon syrup. Yacon tubers are rich in an indigestible sugar – inulin – meaning that the syrup they form has all the sweetness of honey or sugar, but without the calories. Yacon also benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aid digestion.
Peel and slice and eat like fruit. Or, like apple, you can grate it and add to a coleslaw or cut into pieces and add to a Waldorf salad. I paired it with iceberg lettuce and blue cheese with walnuts for a refreshing salad. Put into a tropical fruit salad for dessert with a squeeze of lemon or lime to stop it turning brown. Or change up the traditional upside-down pear cake and use slices of yacon instead.
As soon as I get back to Lyttelton I will be looking for some tubers to plant. I have read it is easy to grow and dividing the crowns to get more plants means I can grow lots. My only concern is the Momo and Moko (the kunekunes) are bound to like them too and they are pretty quick to find succulent tubers!