A while ago we were given a little 250ml jar of yacon syrup. The price on the lid was $19.50, but as its best before date was passed we were given it for free with our bulk food shopping. It was thick and gooey, with a strong molassery taste. I wasn’t that impressed but tried it in a few recipes.
Later on we were given a yacon plant, which sat in its pot for a year waiting to be planted. Finally last spring we had a place for to go in the ground. It grew to about 1.5 metres tall, with lovely big leaves and little yellow flowers. Generally you harvest them after the first frost, but as our frosts this year ( have only had a couple so far) have been pretty mild ours is still growing and flowering in June. But a friend down the road has some and hers have died down, so we were given a bucketful to try. I’m not really a fan of them fresh, though the crispy juicy texture is quite nice. But we like to experiment and even though we eat low carb a little bit of sweetness is nice occasionally. Even better is knowing how to make your own homegrown (or neighbour grown) and home made natural sweeteners.
Making Yacon Syrup.
We washed the yacon tubers, peeled them and cut them into long pieces which would fit into the hand mincer.
The tubers are very crisp and juicy so mincing was an easy task, but you could use a food processor instead.
Once minced the pulp was tipped into a colander lined with cheese cloth, over a pot. We allowed the juice to drain, then gathered up the cloth and squeezed the pulp to get all the juice out, twisting the cloth into a tight ball.
The juice was brought to the boil and then simmered on the woodstove for most of the day. Any scum that formed on the surface was removed.
Once it had reduced to a fragrant syrup we removed it from the heat and poured the syrup through a fine sieve into a sterilised hot glass jar.
There was a small amount of ‘debris’ left in the sieve, if you were doing a larger amount this could probably be saved for baking etc.
From 2.66kg of fresh yacon, we ended up with 208g of syrup. I did notice some condensation it the jar as it cooled, so we probably should have reduced the syrup a bit more, which would have resulted in a lower yield. However we will store it in the fridge so the moisture content should not be an issue.
We were impressed with the flavour, kind of like a mild golden syrup. certainly not as thick and molassery as the commercial jar we were given, which is another reason why we think it may not have been reduced enough. But our syrup was much nicer tasting than the commercial product, we are not sure whether that was due to it being fresher, runnier or just because homemade often tastes better!
Would we make it again? Definitely. The process was easy and once its on the stove its just, check it occasionally, skim it if needed and wait for it to thicken.
Yacons produce the edible tubers and smaller reddish rhizomes, its the rhizomes which you need to grow the plant or a whole ‘crown’ which is the rhizomes attached to the plant base. As Yacon are frost tender wait till all frost have passed before planting or plant in a frost free area. Otherwise they are a very easy care plant, reasonably well drained soil and plenty of compost and mulch should ensure a good crop. But give them a bit of room as they can get to 2m tall, 1 metre spacings are often recommended. Harvest by digging up the whole plant after frosts and when the plant dies down for maximum sweetness. You can set aside the rhizomes or crowns, which can be kept in a paper bag in a dark place or potted up in the greenhouse ready for replanting once the frost have finished, though in warmer areas you can replant and cover mulch the crown over winter.
The edible tubers should be brushed off without damaging the skin, and air dried, before laying them in a cardboard box with newspaper between the layers and over the top. Store in a cool dark place for about 3 months, they can go wrinkly but are still edible.
Yacon can be roasted or boiled, used in stews and casseroles or in salads, juiced or used in smoothies. It has been said to treat it like a juicy, crunchy potato or a mild apple. The leaves are also apparently edible used like spinach or to wrap food and also as a tea. Yacon is considered to be good stock fodder, both the leaves and the tubers, and the plant is thought to encourage healthy bacteria both in the soil and in the human gut.
An interesting plant with many uses and easy to grow, this year I think we will devote a whole garden bed to it!