It’s been a pretty heady week in vegie land. The reason is that I wandered into our local organic shop and there on the counter were two bags of yakon – YUM! I first heard of these scrumdiddlyumptious ‘underground apples’ a year back but have only recently discovered that they’ll grow in my part of the world.
Hailing from South America, yakon are a relative of the Jerusalem artichoke but before you stop reading – wait! These sunflower cousins are not invasive (I’ve never forgotten the Triffid-like spread of Jerusalem artichokes after they’d been in my garden for a couple of years, or just how many WWOOFers were required to dig them out and sieve the soil for fragments of rhizome!). Even better than being non-invasive, yakon don’t create the horrendous gassy gut that Jerusalem artichokes are infamous for.
Of course, for someone who lives on the edge of a rainforest where possums play havoc with anything remotely edible, the real genius of yakon is that the tubers it produces, and which taste for all the world like crisp, sweet apples, grow underground! So unless our resident possum population starts digging, my yakon are going to be safe and sound.
I really thought I was onto a good thing with the yakon I found in the organic shop, especially as there were eight tubers selling for only $2. “Wow!” I said to the woman serving me, “I’ve been looking for these for over a year. Do you think they’ll grow?” She did, so I bought two bags.
It was only when I got home and set the yakon in a tray to sprout that I got the sneaking suspicion that tubers might not be the way to go when it comes to actually growing this unusual veg. A quick search on the net confirmed my fears. Turns out that yakon are seriously weird. Like Jerusalem artichokes, they do grow from rhizomes but it wasn’t rhizomes I’d bought at the shop. What I’d bought were yakon tubers.
The tuberous parts grow below the rhizomes, connected to it by roots. They are the plant’s food store, which explains why they are so deliciously sweet – so sweet that I happily substituted them for apple in my morning muesli.
I’m going to grow these tender plants in a bucket in my glasshouse until all danger of frosts are past and then, whammo, into a rich pile of compost they’ll go. Yakon take 9 months to deliver up the goods which are then removed from the plant, dried off as you would potatoes, and stored out of the light. It may be that I even have to protect them from frost in the latter stages of their development if an early winter or extra cold autumn arrives. And I’ll certainly be winter-overing the rhizomes in the glasshouse. But one thing is certain, once you’ve tasted these delicious ‘fruits’, no amount of pampering will be an issue!