Thursday, September 13, 2012

Herd of Yacón?


Early last week a small package arrived at my house; the much anticipated yacón delivery. While we've already established that yacón is not a breed of alpaca, I thought I'd bring you along on my journey of discovery as to what it actually is.

Yacón is a plant with edible tuberous roots, and what this package contained is a collection of ventilated plastic bags that loudly compelled me to plant their contents immediately. The tubers enclosed are gnarled, knotted and twisted exactly like its cousin, the jerusalem artichoke. If that still doesn't give you a good feel for what they look like, then just try to imagine what would happen if an alpaca ate too many burritos, and left the result to harden in the sun.

As you might imagine due to their shape, these aren't the easiest kind of tuber to prepare for general consumption, and from my experience with jerusalem artichoke, if these were the intended product I'd probably have fed them to the chickens at this point. However, while edible, these gnarled tubers are mainly reserved for propagation - yacón are usually grown for the additional gigantic, ovaloid storage tubers that are reportedly bigger than that fish your uncle caught last summer and won't shut up about.

What attracted me to the yacón, other than trying to grow something completely different, was evaluating the claim that they'll happily grow without any attention what so ever. And seriously, who do you know that would better run that test? Its resume reads exactly as it should for a position in my garden. They're also supposed to taste sweet like an apple (hence its other name - the Peruvian ground apple), and since I'm not doing all that well growing sky apples, I thought I better hedge my bets.

My preparation of the bed hasn't been perfect  considering my long absence from behind the garden-fork, which isn't a problem because apparently yacón will also grow happily in poor sandy soils too, just not as vigorously. So with only a single bag of caca de la vaca to spread over some of the area, I'll be experimenting by planting yacon in two kinds of soil - poor soil, and poorer soil.

I've planted them along my western fence in four separate holes, each about a meter apart, and a few centimeters under the soil. They should grow into a tall unruly mass of leaves and yellow flowers that you could easily mistake for a group of hippies at an open air festival. When they die back after the summer, I'll hire a small crane to lift the tubers out. And the tops of the plants are supposedly highly nutritious veloci-chicken food - so nothing will go to waste!

Will keep you posted on the progress!

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