Yacon is a brown to violet tuber from the Andes which can grow to a weight of up to 1 kg.
From the outside it looks like a radish or sweet potato. It has been regarded as a useful staple food for decades by the natives. The tender tuber flesh is eaten as a vegetable, salad or simple raw. The yacon tuber is similar in taste to a refreshing sweet honey melon or pear.
The name "yacon" comes from the South American Quechua language and is composed of the words "yakku" (tasteless) and "unu" (water, as the tuber contains a lot of water).
Our yacon thrives in the harsh climate of the Peruvian Andes, among other places. It is very adaptable and is now also cultivated in warmer regions. Meanwhile, it has even been successfully cultivated in Germany. The yacon root, which contains a lot of water, has always been a valuable staple food and remedy for the local people. It is cultivated according to organic guidelines. The root is ripe when the outer skin becomes wrinkled. Only the best roots are selected by hand to produce the valuable yacon powder.
Yacon is suitable as a sugar substitute. Reasons: Yacon has a high content of inulin and oligofructose, which belong to the so-called "fructooligo-saccharides", natural sugar substitutes. Their sweetening power has hardly any calories and is 30-50 times higher than that of conventional sugar. The high fibre content of inulin and oligofructose ensures a quick feeling of satiety and is therefore an ideal companion for weight reduction and diabetes.
Botanically, yacon belongs to the daisy family and is therefore related to stevia, among others. However, stevia products are rather bitter in taste and remind of sweetener, while yacon has a pleasant, sweet taste and, unlike stevia, is a high-quality prebiotic.
Botanically, yacon, like Jerusalem artichoke, belongs to the composite family. Yacon is not related to the sweet potato, which belongs to the bindweed family.
Yacon is botanically related to the following plant genera:
Yacon comes in different varieties and colours, e.g.:
The taste of the yacon tuber is reminiscent of a sweet honeydew melon or pear, i.e. fruit. Since the tuber grows underground, it is also called "fruit growing underground".
Foods are called prebiotic if they contain special indigestible dietary fibres. Important prebiotics are, for example, inulin and oligofructose. They enter the lower intestine with the food, where they serve as food for the desired, i.e. "good" bacteria – the probiotics – and thus ensure a healthy intestinal flora.
Yacon is ideally suited as a product to accompany a diet, because it provides an increased feeling of satiety. The inulin it contains contains hardly any calories and has a satiating effect, thus serving as a natural appetite suppressant. In addition, dietary fibres slow down the digestion process, which means that the blood sugar level does not rise as steeply and drops more slowly, which prevents cravings.
Yacon tea made from fresh or dried leaves is traditionally drunk in South America for diabetes, due to its blood sugar and cholesterol-lowering effect. Unfortunately, yacon tea tastes extremely bitter, which puts most consumers off and makes them switch to yacon powder.
The yacon tuber came to Europe from South America in the 16th century, but was never able to establish itself as a popular fruit.
Outside the Andean countries, only a few yacon plantations are known, for example in Japan, New Zealand, Brazil and China since the 1960s. In Europe, the first cultivation trials took place in Italy in the 1920s. In the EU today, yacon plants are mainly cultivated in the Czech Republic. In Germany, there are a few yacon growers in Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg and also in the Southern Palatinate. They offer their products in regional trade and via mail order.
In industrialised countries, yacon is now rated as a "superfood". The powder is suitable for the following applications:
Often larger amounts, such as those required for cakes, lead to flatulence, especially if one is not used to prebiotics. Toxic side effects are not reported in the literature.
Use approx. 1 tbsp. (approx. 12 g) yacon powder to sweeten yoghurt, muesli or smoothies as required. Yacon powder is very sensitive to oxygen, i.e. always carefully close the can after use!