A relative of the sunflower and Jerusalem artichoke, yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a crisp, juicy, sweet tuber with a texture not unlike that of water chestnut, which is native to the Andes of South America.
Yacón is prized for its unique carbohydrate composition. Rather than storing carbohydrates as starch, as most tubers do, yacón stores carbohydrate as fructooligosacaride (FOS). FOS is a polymer mainly composed of fructose and as the human body does not have an enzyme which hydrolyses it, it passes through the digestive tract un-metabolised and provides little energy making it a diet and diabetic friendly food. In addition, the undigested portion of yacón is a food for ‘friendly’ bacteria in the colon.
The yacón tuber also provides 20 amino acids and has the highest levels of plant potassium as well as high levels of calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphous.
Availability: Autumn to spring.
Goes with: fruit and vegetables.
STORING, PREPARING & USING
Storing: Keep in a cool, dark place – will keep for months in the refrigerator.
Preparing: Wash and peel, then chop, slice or grate. If using raw, dip lemon or lime juice to prevent browning.
Using: Add to fruits and vegetables when juicing for sweetness with kilojoules. Try yacón raw as a snack or add to salads, slaws and rice paper rolls. It can also be stir-fried, roasted or casseroled.
- South American Fruit Salad: Combine equal quantities diced fresh pineapple, mango, yacon and bananas in a large bowl. Pour over fresh orange juice to cover, add fresh berries or your choice and mix to combine. Decorate with fresh mint leaves or borage flowers.
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