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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Smallanthus sonchifolius
Alternative Names: Sweet-Root, Bolivian Sun Root, Pear of the Earth

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Smallanthus sonchifolius
Smallanthus sonchifolius


  • Perennial
  • Yacon is native to the Andean region of South America, today’s Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru.
  • It is traditionally grown for its crisp, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots.
  • Yacon can grow up to 2.5 meters in height, has large diamond-shaped leaves and produces small, inconspicuous yellow to orange flowers at the end of the growing season.
  • After the first frosts have blackened the leaves, cut the stems down to 10cm above ground level.
  • The tuberous roots are then ready for digging out.
  • The root below produces clusters of two types of tubers.
  • On top is a bunching of reddish rhizomes which look like young ginger.
  • Underneath are brown, edible tubers that look like sweet potatoes.
  • They have a crisp, fresh bite, like water chestnuts or jicama, and taste like a cross between apple, watermelon, celery, and pear.
  • After harvest, tubers left in the sun to harden taste much better than those eaten immediately.
  • Yacon can be grown by using the reddish rhizomes at the base of the stalks – store them in barely moist compost in a cool, frost-free shed or garage for propagation in spring.
  • If left in the ground – Yacon will not reproduce again from the tubers, which, when unharvested, rot in the ground.
  • Yacon is perennial in sub-tropical/tropical areas and must be treated as an annual in other areas.
  • In spring – break the big clusters up and plant again.

Culinary Uses

  • It’s best to peel yacon, as the skin is bitter.
  • It turns brown quickly, so peel and cut it at the last minute.
  • To prevent discolouring, sprinkle with lemon juice or soak in lemon water.
  • The crisp, sweet and crunchy texture, and refreshing flavor of yacon makes it a great snack, eaten raw, peeled and sliced.
  • Add to salad bowls or grated into coleslaw.
  • It can also be added raw into smoothies.
  • Yacon can be cooked like sweet potatoes, used in curries and soups or cut into slices and fried (like potatoes).
  • Add to desserts, cakes and pies.
  • Yacon leaves are edible and can be used similarly to other root vegetable greens or spinach.
  • They can also be used as a wrap, as you would with cabbage leaves.

Parts Used

  • The leaves and tubers.
  • Do not wash the Yacon before storing, as it will go mouldy once damp.
  • Store it in a dry place - it can stay fresh for several months and will sweeten over time.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • Yacon is seen as a “superfood.”
  • The root vegetable is a high fibre, low-calorie food with beneficial prebiotic and probiotic bacteria’s which are thought to aid in digestion and gut health.
  • The tubers and leaves are both good sources of antioxidants.
  • It is popular among nutritionists because its sweet flavour comes from hard-to-digest inulin, rather than sucrose or other sugars, making it more ideal for diabetics.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff

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