Yacon: Pre-windstorm harvest

I’d like to get some Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) seeds this year, but there are a couple of obstacles.  The first is that my yacons are not in sync.

One variety starts flowering in early October.  The other starts about three weeks later.  That puts them at risk of getting frosted before seeds can set.

In this case, I have a second obstacle: wind.  We are probably still about a month away from a hard frost, but this is the start of the windstorm season here on the coast and there is a big blow coming in this weekend.  That spells the end of Yacon season even more than frost, since they just get shredded in high winds.

So, I decided to dig two yacon plants and transplant them into buckets in the hope that I can keep them alive long enough to get seed.  This is not as easy as it would be for some plants.  Yacons are big, with giant, heavy root balls made of fragile storage tubers.

My plan was to harvest most of the storage tubers (which are the parts that you eat) but leave some of the smaller ones so that the plants can draw energy from them during their container incarceration.

Yacon is both a wonder to harvest and a pain.  The large yields of huge roots are really impressive.  Unfortunately, they cluster under the plant and are really easy to damage.  No matter how careful you are, a lot of them get snapped.  The snapped roots don’t store as well.

If not pressed by wind and desire for seeds, I would normally leave the yacon untouched until I wanted some.  They will overwinter in the ground here without a problem most of the time.

Yield from the first yacon plant.  This variety produces reddish tubers (the color gets more vivid after they have been out of the ground for a while) and flowers relatively early.

I also noticed what appear to be aerial propagules on this variety.  I haven’t seen that before.  I suspect that I can cut free those nodules and pot them up as new yacon plants for next year.

There were a few forming higher up the stems as well.

One yacon transferred into a bucket.  It was a tight fit even with the storage tubers removed.

Yield of the second variety.  This one has more tan/white tubers and flowers relatively late.  I think this is the more common variety in the US.  Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have many named Yacon varieties.

Total yield from the 2 plants was 21 pounds.  That is actually not a great yield for yacon, but respectable.  I probably left about four pounds of storage tubers on the plants.

Hopefully the plants will survive the shock and keep flowering.  I’d like to breed some varieties to flower a little earlier and perhaps form shorter stalks so that they aren’t so vulnerable to wind damage.

Yacon offsets are sometimes available in our seed shop.

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