I grew Yacon/Peruvian ground apple (Smallanthus sonchifolius) for the first time this past season and I’m a huge fan. I scored the tubers from a fellow keen gardener, Matt, who lives around the corner from me. He popped a few tubers in my hand and I popped them in my soil and honestly, I kinda just forgot about them. But they proceeded to flourish so I started paying attention. As winter kicked in, their leaves dyed back and I harvested all the tubers from three plants.
When harvesting them you’ll see two distinct type of tubers – large whiter tubers (you eat these ones) and smaller purple tubers – these are the ones to keep for growing more plants next season. In our cool temperate climate, this means storing them in damp sawdust (as seen below centre) or free draining soil until spring (after frosts have passed) when you’ll pop them back into the ground. You can watch a snappy reel about the process here.
These tubers are unique in that they’re bloody delicious to eat raw – straight out of the earth if you’re as impatient as I am. They taste like a crispy, juicy earth Nashi pear – if that makes sense :-). Anyway, they’re great and my favourite way to eat them is in salads, in stews and curries. You can also just roast them – but I found them a bit too sweet for me – but other folks love them like this. And then there’s yacon syrup. This one blew my (and my 8 year old daughter’s) socks off. Next season I’ll be growing around 20 plants and I reckon most of them will be turned into syrup as it’s amazing and a fair dinkum rival to maple syrup. A big call I know!
How to make it yourself
- Wash n chop the yacon. I left the skin on, but others suggest removing it, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference so I wouldn’t be fussed with doing it.
- Juice it all up, some folks use the leftover mush in cooking or dry it and eat as part of their muesli, but I just gave it to my very stoked chickens.
- Pop the juice on the stove and bring it to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 2-3 hours. This timing was a little vague as different recipes recommend different times. Apparently there’s a risk of it setting too hard if you cook it for too long, so I did 2.5 hrs. But next time I’ll do at least 3 hours to try and get it thicker. But don’t worry, even if it’s bit runny it’s still highly delicious and perfect to drizzle on your pancakes.
- While it’s simmering, stir occasionally and scoop off the sludge that forms on top. The three photos below show that process with the left hand photo at the beginning of the process and the far right image at the very end of the 2.5 hours.
- The whole thing reduces significantly to around 1/5 off what I started with. I then let it cool down before pouring into a clean jar.
- Store it in the fridge in a jar and use exactly like you’d use maple syrup or honey.
- You can see another whiz of a reel showing the whole process here.
The whole thing was a wild success. To quote my daughter “wow, it actually tastes really good!” Honestly, we were both surprised as these more uncommon recipes don’t always taste great. But this one is a legit winner. So if you can, have a crack at growing and eating this beauty of a plant, you will not regret it.