- Preparation time
- 10 mins
- Meal course
- Posted by
- Posted on
- April 20, 2018
Yacon means ‘water root’ in the Incha language and was historically sought by travellers as an important source of water.
Yacon, native to the Andean Cordillera, produces delicious tubers (often known as roots) that have been grown in the Andes for thousands of years, and are now cultivated in many parts of the world. Yacon has been recently growing in popularity due to its health benefits.
Like many native plant varieties, its consumption declined dramatically following colonisation. However, in recent years, yacon has re-emerged in countries like Peru, where it is used as a local sweetener.
In Colombia, for example, organisations like Semilla Andina based in Bogotá have been working with local farmers to increase production while raising awareness of the tuber and its health benefits at local farmers markets such as ‘Tierra Viva’. Here, they sell yacon produced by farmers in the region and honey made from yacon extract which can be used as a natural sweetener. “Promoting native plants and their uses is beneficial for the local economy and to maintain local bio-diversity,” Juliette Le Fournis from Semilla Andina tells La Salsa Inglesa.
Yacon can come in a variety of colours: red, orange, pale yellow and even purple.
Though it looks like a potato, it is sweet in taste and can be eaten raw. Crunchy in texture, it is comparable to an apple but similar in sweetness to a watermelon. Yacon is sometimes called the ‘earth apple’ because of its fruit-like qualities.
Apart from the distinctively crunchy texture and sweetness, yacon is better known for its medicinal benefits.
Yacon contains an indigestible carbohydrate inulin that caries few calories despite its sweetness. It does not raise the body’s blood sugar levels, making it ideal for diabetics (1).
Yacon is also said to reduce appetite and assist weight loss – so add this one to your shopping list if you’re trying to slim down! Yacon benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that support the immune system and aid digestion. It is also rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium and contains more anti-oxidants than red wine! (2)
Uses and storage
To eat raw, simply peal and you’re ready to go. Note: yacon will start to change colour as soon as it’s peeled. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime to avoid browning.
Yacon can be added to salads including fruit salads, fried in a stir-fry, added to stews, or baked in the oven. It also goes well in juices and smoothies.
If the Yacon root is soft, that usually means that it’s old. Try and select firmer ones at your local market. The smaller ones tend to be sweetest. According to Speciality Product, the best way to store yacon is by wrapping them in a newspaper and keeping them in a cool dark place for up to ten days.
Below is a salad recipe I made for a live cooking demonstration at the Agro-ecological market ‘Tierra Viva’ in Bogotá, Colombia. The idea behind the recipe was to inspire people to think of different ways to include nutritious (and in this case native) ingredients into their day-to-day diets.
Yacon, Kale and Avocado Salad
Kale, a popular vegetable sold at local farmers markets around the world, can be eaten raw. Make sure you wash the leaves thoroughly and remove the tough middle storks before chopping. The orange dressing helps balance out the slightly bitter flavour of the kale. Alternatively, you can use spinach. Spinach is less bitter eaten raw but still extremely nutritious.
As this is a salad recipe, use these quantities as an guide. Add more or less of the ingredients depending on your preference. I’m a big fan of using what you have in the cupboard. So, if you don’t have any tomatoes but have beets (for example) don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit!
- Wash the kale or spinach, remove the thick central storks and finely chop the leaves. Add to a salad bowl
- Peel and grate the carrot, add to the kale and mix together
- Next peal and grate the yacon, add to a small bowl and squeeze over the juice of a lime to prevent the yacon from turning brown. Add to the salad bowl
- Add the tablespoon of mayonnaise to a cup with the juice of half an orange. Whisk with a fork until fully combined
- Add the dressing to the salad and toss
- Finally, add flakes of avocado using a spoon, the tomatoes, sliced, and the chopped almonds if using
- Your super food salad is now ready to serve!