Saturday, August 17, 2013

Yacon goes with everything

After flowering a few months ago, the tops of my yacon browned, drooped, and began to look sadder than a wet cat. On the surface it may have appeared like another casualty in a lifestyle of over employment, but thankfully, it was just the plants telling me that it was time to tuck in a bib and say grace. Sinking a garden fork into ground a generous distance from the browning stalks, I heaved up the dormant root ball. The small turd-like fragments of rhizome I'd planted some six months earlier had developed into what looked like a complex ball of intestinal tract - but more importantly, what came up attached to the mass was kilos of smooth, round, elongated tubers - the entire reason for starting on this journey to begin with.

Layers of dirt rode the back of a purplish-skin as I used a knife to peel it away from the white flesh of the first tuber. Yacon is often eaten raw in its homeland, and after six months of suspense I wasn't about to wait for a pot to boil before I dived in and had a taste. Raw yacon is crunchy like an apple, juicy like a watermelon and reminds you a bit of eating celery sticks - except it tastes like none of these things. In fact, it really doesn't taste like anything at all. At first that was very disappointing - but with an overwhelming pile of tubers boxed in a corner of the kitchen, The Wife started putting them in random dishes, if only to get rid of them.

...And the results have been surprising.

What yacon does add to a dish is texture, fill and a refreshing burst of moisture, without modifying the dish's original flavour. That's the true genius of the yacon tuber - because it tastes like nothing, it can be made to taste like anything. It's been particularly amazing in casseroles, stir-frys, or baked with a sprinkling of oil and rosemary. Cutting the tubers into thin slices and frying them with a touch of seasoned salt made the most amazing crunchy, moisture-filled chips.

But the real winner with Yacon is that when freshly harvested, the bulk of its composition is oligo-fructose - a largely indigestible sugar which is also a pre-biotic and soluble fibre. Eating it not only means very few calories, but also that you won't have as much time to spend thinking next time you visit the throne. If you're dangerously thin or just need a bit more time to ponder the deeper mysteries of the world, you can always leave your tubers in the sun for a week or two to speed up the transition of oligo-fructose to other, sweeter sugars.

The initial disappointment had confined the remaining entrails of the plant to a box, which had been euphemistically stored under the house for later planting. Fishing them out of the dark with renewed enthusiasm, I broke them up into fist-sized pieces that contained a few nodes each. Re-planted, these should each re-shoot over the next month as it warms up, and we'll be back on the way to next Autumn's yacon harvest.

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