Family: Asteraceae (includes daisies, sunflowers, Curio sp. succulents)
Genus: Smallanthus (includes Yellow Leafcup)
Botanical/Binomial Name: Smallanthus sonchifolius
Common Names: Yacón, Peruvian Ground Apple
Botanical Characteristics: Herbaceous | Perennial | Evergreen, semi-deciduous or deciduous (leaves and/or stems will/may die down in temperate winters) | Frost tender
Propagation: Division of rhizomes (preferred) | Seed (slower to mature) | Will self-seed sparsely
You will get as many rhizome clumps as will fit in a small or medium box (whilst allowing room for protective packaging) so as to maximise value for money postage-wise. (Please select box size from ‘Available Options’ above.)
Photos are to show to what extent the clumps vary — every order is different!
Photos 2 and 3 are representative of a small box order (excluding the moist pine shavings the rhizomes are packed in). You’ll receive at least ten rhizomes either as individuals or in clumps. The combined weight of the rhizomes in photo 3 was 410 g.
Photos 4 and 5 are representative of a medium box order (excluding the moist pine shavings the rhizomes are packed in). You’ll receive at least twenty rhizomes, again either as individuals or in clumps, but more likely as clumps as the deeper box is more conducive to larger clumps fitting. The combined weight of the rhizomes in photo 5 was 860 g.
Rhizomes will be dug up fresh for every order and immediately packed in wetted pine shavings to keep them cool and moist. Some rhizomes will already be shooting as shown in the photos, but don’t worry if any of the more delicate tiny shoots break off during transport, as the rhizome will readily shoot again from multiple spots. You may see multiple green shoots in some of the rhizomes photographed.
Some smaller rhizomes may have thin pencil-like tubers still attached — these are left alone so as to feed the rhizome during transport. (Tubers not dug up and eaten eventually shrivel up as they feed the growing plant, if they don’t outright rot in the ground.)
Clumps with more than one rhizome are easily divided, but there is no harm planting them as one unit either. Either way will produce multiples next year!
Please note that the plants in the photo are for planting now, ready for harvest next June or so. There are no edible parts on these ones yet.
Yacón, or Peruvian ground apple, is the edible tuber of this plant and its taste is really hard to describe, except delicious, sweet, somewhat juicy, and very refreshing!
It has a crunchy texture somewhat like an apple, and a taste all of its own. Sweet like a fruit but more diverse — I’ve sliced it up into disks to nibble on its own, have added it cubed to fruit salads (it will brown as apples do), and it is incredible in a savoury stir-fry as well! (I cut them into thin chips for that.) Yacon and oyster sauce go surprisingly well together!
I find it more refreshing than water too — when working in the garden on a really hot day I’ve often dug one up there and then as a thirst-quencher (you may wish to remove the very thin skin and wash it first ;) )
Diabetics may wish to read up on its apparent medicinal benefits too.
Each plant produces tubers which you eat, and rhizomes from which new plants grow. I’ll dig up an occasional tuber on a hot summer or early autumn day (see thirst-quenching note above), but harvest them in bulk when the plant dies down around June, and either leave the rhizomes in place or divide to plant elsewhere. The tubers sweeten further when left to dry.
As with potatoes, the more fertile the soil the more numerous and larger the tubers, which are somewhat cylindrical with tapered ends. The last photo shows the harvest from a handful of initial plants which self-seeded in one half of one of our vegie beds. That is a 1.5 m dressmaker’s tape laid across the top! The size of that half-bed is 900 mm × 1500 mm. (The sheer bulk of the tubers produced actually bowed the sides of the bed and necessitated repair!)
It is more typical to propagate by division after harvest — just break up the clumps to contain at least one red rhizome — but in this case the tall stem of a yacón from the previous year was overhanging that bed whilst in flower. Their flowers look just like miniature sunflowers by the way, not surprising when you discover they are in the same family as sunflowers (Asteraceae)!
These plants love full sun, but can handle spots that are in shade part of the day. They love rich, well-draining soil and will be most productive in the ground rather than a pot. The herbaceous, thick, hollow, stems easily grow to 2 m, and can top 3 m in an especially good spot.
Yacón is perennial but after flowering, the tops will die/brown off in winter in most climates, and this is the time to harvest. (The hollow stems and flat, wide leaves, whether green or brown, make the most excellent compost by the way, and break down very readily.)
Rhizomes can be left in place in the ground during harvest, or dug up and divided at this point.
Rhizomes may not survive in places with heavy frosts, in which case refrigerate these over winter for planting in spring after the last frost.
Mine are so acclimatised here that some are more green than others year-round, and die back in June rather than May nowadays, but harvest is still once a year in winter. Come late winter or spring, depending on your climate, you’ll see their delightful leaves pushing through the soil as the rhizomes kick into gear for another season.
Local pick-up is welcome — we’re in Gwynneville, near Wollongong University.
Pick-up is by mutual arrangement please, as we don’t have a shopfront.
Having said that, we are always here and more often than not can easily fit in with whichever day and time suits you best!
Feel free to suggest preferred pick-up time(s) in the comments box during checkout and we’ll reply as soon as we see the notification.
Especial Note Regarding Large Air-Pot® Orders
Depending on the order, we may suggest that large Air-Pot® orders are best sent directly to you from the warehouse.
Especial Note Regarding Jujube Trees
When posting out bare-rooted jujube trees, we routinely trim them to fit the box and keep postage costs to a minimum. These trees are typically knee-high when planted out, though some may be smaller.
This of course doesn’t apply for pick-ups, and in fact we will set aside the tallest trees specifically for this purpose. These trees can often be hip-high, and sometimes taller again.
Please note that this is not a guarantee, as heights of different cultivars can differ from year to year.