The surviving yacon

This winter I again had problems storing the yacon on the floor in my larder. Fortunately a single eye on a little crown has started growing. Starting from a terribly dry yacon crown, this was done based on my hope.

yacon 2010 2009 og 2008
How yacon stored in my larder (from left) 2010, 2009 and 2008

The good storing yacon (2009) was grown in Kirstens allotment. This fact forced me to do some thinking!
Storing in my larder must be OK.
It must be how yacon grow in my garden I must change. But how?
In both 2008 and 2010 the yacon crown had started to sprout more or less in autumn. My present theory is that yacon show no signs of needing water when growing – I give it no water. After a dry spell in autumn crowns start sprouting, before I dig the roots.
This year I’ll water my yacon, when other plants in the garden needs water.
If it works, I think I’ve cracked the yacon code 🙂

Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) root with crown in march

Previous posts on yacon

Last winter I stored the yacon crowns separated from the tubers. The last I ate in short time – raw yacon taste great. Unfortunately the crowns didn’t live through the winter but shrivelled away. Fortunately I have learned from this experience!

In the autumn Kirsten was dear enough to give me two plants when she harvested her yacons. This winter I have stored them like I store my Dahlias, and they look healthy. Basicly I followed same procedure as last year. Stored the roots (crowns and tubers) in the larder, covering them with a plastic bag around christmas, when the had dryed a little, to slow down any further drying. Only difference from last year is, that now the crowns are attached to the tubers. Today the tubers looks dry and wrinkled, but the crowns are juicy and tender – very promising!

Today I planted some of the crowns in pots on the ground in the greenhouse, covered with several layers of bubbleplast, to keep them from freezing. I’m curious to learn if it’s better to pot them up now, or to store them an other month in the larder before setting in the ground (Like I do with Dahlias).

Yacon parade in Kirstens allotment

Kirsten have yacon this year. She had some crowns from a seed saver that had luck overwintering his yacon crowns. Overwintering is the real challenge in yacon growing in northern europe. This summer she promised Anne and me a root with crown in autumn. As frost is forecasted a few nights ahead, we agreed to meet in her allotment today. Yacon should be harvested as late as possible, but like Dahlia, frost will kill it. Typically we would wait for the first frost to kill the top, and then harvest the tubers safe in the ground. Anyway, we did it three days ahead.

Vi both tried digging gently with the fork

Roots of yacon are brittle. Delicious eating, but in demand of a gentle hand on the fork not to break the tubers. We did break some on almost all plants, but still think we did quite well. One of them we tasted. Nice crisp, but no sweetness yet. They need time in storage to develop the charateristic sweetness.

Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius syn. Polymnia sonchifolia) ‘Morado’
Tubers of yacon grow large

This variety does well in culture. We don’t know a name for it. It grow large to huge red tubers, which after time in storage develop the sweet taste. We agreed not to wash the tubers, but just dry and store them as we do with Dahlias.

Kirsten presented two sets of tubers to me. Anne had a set of tubers, a crown and a small plant. The two last she will try to grow through winter in a cold glazed frost protected balcony. My tubers are now drying protected in my greenhouse. In a few days I’ll store them dry in the bottom of my larder, as I do with my Dahlias. This year I will not eat any of the tubers, as last year I ate them and the crowns died. It’s the crown with its eyes that you set in spring. The tuber have no eyes, and can’t grow a new yacon in spring.

Have a look at Yacon, sweet treat from the Andes and Yacon crown in january

Yacon crown in january

Patrick in the Netherlands asked how I store my yacon crowns.

The yacon crowns I have stored in peat in a jar in the bottom of an oldfashion cool larder next to the kitchen. Now looking to them I start to get worried. I have sprinkled them lightly with water on occasions to keep the peat slightly moist, but apparently it wasn’t good enough.

Now I have asked some experienced danish seedsavers also experimenting with yacon. One is in same troubles as I. But the other is much better at it. So what’s the art? Presumably they just had to be stored like dahlias, and my dahlias are doing well.

This is what she writes:
“I keep my (yacon) in wood dust above freezing point but cold – aprox. 3-4 Celcius. I do not sprinkle with water – they look OK. Some of the larger roots have started to dry out a little, but I believe they will survive. Our basement is humid. This is how dahlia is stored, and it should be same family.”

I don’t have a facility with a stable temperature around 4Celcius. The fridge might do, but it’s usually full. I need to find another solution. Then I think of what Rose Marie commented in my last post on yacon. Since winter until now has been very mild, I have now potted up the yacon crowns and put them out in the green house according to her advise. It’s a kind of russian roulette to my yacon crowns, I watch the weather forecast attentively every night. I have taken my precausions, trying to minimise the risk and slow it down when it comes. Pots are placed in green house directly on the ground to enable ground heat to travel up in the pots. Then I have covered with a double layer of bubblefoil (recycled). To increase the mass under the cover I’ve added a 2½litre flask of water, hopefully giving me more hours before frost are able to kill the yacon crowns.

Does someone else have experience storing yacon crowns?

Yacon tubers
Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius syn. Polymnia sonchifolia) ‘Morado’

Yacon is a tasty sweet root from the andes. I belongs to same family as dandelion, lettuce, Jerusalem artichoke and wormwood.

It is second time I try to grow yacon. First time I had a small, but tasty harvest. I tried to save some roots for next year, but they died for me.

The variety I try this year grow much better. I grew some nice big dahlia like tubers, and taste is great.
I eat them raw as a treat, since they are so sweet. Like jerusalem artichokes they havea high content of inulin.

yacon bulb with eyes

Now I hope to overwinter the crown with eyes on the small tubers. If this variety comes easily through winters, many will like to grow it in their gardens.

In an other seed saver garden I saw this variety in warm yellow flowers. I must have been a bit late starting it out in spring.