Dried Yacon as a sweet treat

Grow natural sweet treats easily in your garden, actually underground, with Yacon – another way to avoid single-use packaging.

Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a perennial herbaceous plant native to the Andes. I grow it around my garden and dig it up when the tops die back in winter.

Slice and dry it at 50-60 degrees for a simple and delicious dried apple alternative. Eat it raw, juiced, cooked or dried. How do you prepare yours? Each day I’ve been sharing a simple plastic free July tip. One more week – what suggestions do you have?

To learn more about growing a permaculture gardening simply and easily, check out our course The Incredible Edible Garden and learn how to design your own permaculture landscape in our Permaculture Design Course.

Learn permaculture with Morag Gamble

Hi! Welcome back into my garden, it’s Morag Gamble from Our Permaculture Life and the Permaculture Education Institute and as part of plastic-free July. 

Every day around about four o’clock I’ve been either in my home or in the garden. Talking about something that we can do, to actually help get rid of the single-use plastics that are not only clogging up our own homes, but the planet too and the oceans. So today, I wanted to talk about something in the garden and it’s something that we can grow and make. That can help us to reduce a lot of the packaging for treats and things, because this plant here underneath the ground is the source of amazing treat. So this is the remnants of the Yacon plant, and once it starts to die back like this, and looks like it’s pretty much finished. That means it’s time to actually dig down below here. So come down and have a look down here. So what you do is, you pull back the mulch and scratch away and you can kind of see that the whole ground is sort of lifted up here. And then just start to pull away bits and pieces. Look here, there’s one that I’m going to try and get out. So this is what we’re looking for, it’s the roots, the tubers, here we go. So that’s what we’re looking for. So I’m just going to rinse off the dirt off this. Now each plant of these would have maybe, 10 or so of these roots underneath at least. And so what you can do is, you can just skin as you can. See, I’ve already started to peel that off. You can scrape that off or peel it off if you like. But it’s actually fine just to wash the dirt off, and use it like that. Now there’s so many things that you can do with this. So you can just slice it, and eat it raw. You can juice it, you can cook it up and add it to anything like stir fries. Or probably, I wouldn’t add it to soups because then you lose it. It’s like a crunchy flavor, it’s really nice like a water chestnut in a stir fry. That’s probably one of my favorite ways to use it, cooked. But the other way to do it that I wanted to talk about today is actually drying it. Because another name of this is Peruvian Ground Apple.

There’s a sweetness to this, that when you eat it raw I’m just going to see if I can. When you eat it raw, it’s like eating crunchy apples. It’s really delicious! If you pull it out of the ground, and leave it for a couple of weeks.

I’m just sweetening it up, even gets more sweet. But what I’m going to do with this is, chop it into sections pretty roughly like that. And then put it onto a drying tray and at 50 to 60 degrees for several hours until these kind of dehydrate. And get sort of dry and rubbery a little bit, like dried apple that’s what it tastes like. It’s absolutely delicious! 

So you can have all of these growing all the way around in your garden, and you’ve got your own particularly here in the subtropics. Where we don’t have Apricots, we can’t grow apples or pears, or all those lovely things that make dried fruits from. But you can, with this. So that’s a wonderful thing to do. So I think,  if you have it just reasonably thick like this and if you dry it not too hot. So just fit. So I’m still eating, I’ll just finish chewing. If you do it too thin and too hot, you lose all the nutritional value. If you chop them nice and thickly and do it slower at 50 or 60 degrees over a longer time. Then you’re going to keep actually much of the nutritional value of that even as a dried product. And then, you can store them for ages in and on your shelf. I found some at the back of the shelf that I’d obviously missed that were over 12 months old and started eating them, and they’re absolutely delicious. So then you can use that either in cooking or just as a snack, or as a lunchbox treat. Now the thing too, about the sugars of this is a different type of sugar. It’s insulin, which is actually a type of sugar that doesn’t get absorbed into our body and it gets processed much more slowly. So it’s really good for diabetics as well. So that is a wonderful lovely treat that you can grow underground in your garden, and it’s so easy. All you need to do is, get a little section of the plant. Let me see, if I can find it here you want to come down again and see. Let’s see if I can get a section, there we go! Just a little bit of the crown like that. You can see how it’s got a little bit of a growing shoot there. You just plant that in the ground next year, and then you’ll get another whole lot. So on this, I’ve probably got well over a hundred starts. So what I can do is go, and just plug these around the garden where I want them. And then next year when it’s time, when I notice they’re all dead again, I can harvest them again. It’s one of the absolute, easiest pest-free low-maintenance, abundant plants you can grow and it’s great! Like I said for sweets, and for raw juices. And also for cooking in stir-fries.

So join me again tomorrow, for another live back in the garden or in my house. There’s only another week of lives until plastic free July ended. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. You can go back through either my facebook page, or either onto my youtube channel. And see all the ones that I’ve been doing since the 1st of July if you want to catch up, and have a look. So if you’ve got any suggestions for things you’d like me to cover in the last week of plastic free July, please drop a line down below or other recipes that you may have for.