by Zaia Kendall
We had an over-abundant supply of yacon that had to be harvested. Yacon (also known as ground apple) grows very easy in our (sub-tropical) climate — one plant produces many rhizomes for division and re-planting. It needs very little attention when in the ground and Tom is of the opinion that it improves the soil where it has grown.
One can only eat so much yacon and we do not like wasting resources, and after visiting a health shop and noticing the latest health craze is yacon syrup, I decided to try and make some.
I researched a bit on the internet and found that yacon syrup is a healthy sweetener, just what the doctor ordered for us. So if I could get this yacon syrup to work, it would mean we would no longer need to buy any sweeteners and would be one step closer to self reliance and receive health benefits as well.
Yacon syrup is a sugar substitute native to the Andean region of South America. It is glucose-free, and does not increase blood sugar levels. Because of this, yacon syrup is often recommended as a sweetener to those suffering from diabetes or at risk of becoming diabetic.
The syrup is derived from the roots of the yacon plant, and according to some studies is a good source of antioxidants. The yacon plant tastes similar to jicama, but is biologically closer to the sunflower family. The component that gives the roots a sweet taste is Fructooligosaccharide, or FOS. The tuberous roots may be made of nearly 50% FOS, and are believed to be the greatest producers of the saccharide in the natural world.
Because the body cannot process FOS, it passes through the system without leaving behind absorbable sugar compounds. It also is relatively low in calories, compared to most other sweeteners. — wiseGEEK
So I started by digging up a patch of yacon and washing it. To wash it, I put it in a crate and set the hose on it with a fair bit of pressure. I ended up with about two-thirds of a crate of yacon.
I peeled two big bowls full of yacon with a potato peeler (about two-thirds of the amount I had). Then I juiced the peeled yacon and poured the juice into a big pot (around 4 1/2 litres of juice). The pulp ended up with the chooks and the geese.
Skimming the pot of yacon juice
The pot is on the stove and as you can see some scum is already floating on the top. I kept skimming the scum off the top and once it started to reduce I skimmed it from the sides of the pot as well.
I brought the pot to the boil and then let it simmer. I started in the afternoon and let it sit on our wood stove overnight. In the morning I brought it to the boil again and skimmed off more scum from the sides and top. By this time the juice had reduced to about 800ml. The juice had become very dark and the smell was a delicious molasses or treacle smell.
I took the pot off the stove and filtered the juice through a fine metal mesh. I put any thicker material that stayed behind into a separate container — for use as well, just to experiment with. It can be added to dishes that require cooking as a sweetener.
Finally I ended up with a jar with 750ml of yacon syrup. It has a beautiful, sweet treacle-like flavour. I keep it in the fridge, but I don’t think you need to. We add it to drinks, desserts and just use it as a general sweetener. This abundant resource in our garden is allowing us to enjoy healthy sweets and we no longer need to buy other sweeteners. As a comparison, the jar of yacon syrup in the health shop was around 200ml for $24… And it was most likely imported from South America.
Tom is now looking at possible other uses for this resource, eg adding it to animal fodder or making it into a fuel, if he can get to it before I do.
gosh thanks for that – I have just recently planted some yakon for the first time, and am looking forward to harvesting it. I didn’t realize you could make a sweetener out of it.
I also grow Yacon and have heaps here as it is so easy to propagate. I’ve made Yacon strudel (mixed with apples) which is quite yummy, yacon chips (a bit strange as they are so sweet), baked it, and we even munch on it raw, and of course we juice them (great with apple, carrot and celery) for a nice sweet drink. I find they seem to get sweeter a few weeks after harvest just sitting in the cupboard.
Now you’ve inspired me to try making yacon syrup! Sounds like a good alternative to agave syrup and probably even Stevia (although I like to add dried Stevia leaves to my tea pot).
Thanks for the great tip!
We have been growing Yacon for three years, and as one person has commented, you can only eat so much and juice so much. I have purchased yacon syrup and loved it and have wanted to syrup the yacon but had no idea where to start. Thank you for information re yacon syrup and look forward to finding out whether we are able to achieve the results that you did.
Can someone tell me how to grow it, do you buy seeds and plant them in the ground, or you buy a root and plant it. Where do you buy them from? And, what kind of climate is good for that plant?
thanks for the hint! i experimented with making yacon syrup years ago, and found that it went off really quickly, but i didnt strain it. it looked alot murkier than your lovely dark syrup.
my favorite use of yacon is to dehydrate it in thick chunks. it rivals dried apricots and it is so abundant that you can stock the cupboards for the year. it is a great use for the damaged tubers that wont store, and it increases sweetness in the drying process so you dont need to age them for sweetness.
hi thanks for the update. I’m just wondering if it’s so easy to grow then why is it so exspensive? its one of the most expensive sweetners around. Does anyone know where I can buy it at a great price?
I have just made your syrup Zaia, and it has worked. It seemed to evaporate to almost nothing, then I stirred it and it began to bubble and get syrupy. I had it simmering for around 2 hours, and I kept removing the scum from the sides of the pan. I let the syrup simmer for around 5 more minutes to get thicker, then I poured it into a clean vegemite jar and half filled it. I did not have as many yacons as you did, hence the reduced amount. I had two thirds of a bucket to begin with. I did not peel the yacon, but scrubbed them real good. How wonderful to have your own home made healthy sweetener! Thank you so much :)
I bought 2 bottles of yacon syrup and have found a fuzzy mold growing on top of both. Is this normal, and is it safe to eat? I heard from the seller that yacon syrup contains FOS (Fructo-oliosaccharrides)and I was wondering if this mold is FOS. Many thanks!
I live in WA and are trying to find yacon tubers, cannot get them from east due to restrictions can any one in WA help me.
I have grown yacon in my garden in New York state for 6 years, and have over 200 plants this year. I grow it in high mound rows so that the harvest is easy, and to prevent water logging (which destroyed the harvest of my plants in the flat part of the garden last year, after tropical storm Irene). I juice them, then place buckets of juice in my deep freeze. After it is frozen, I pull the ice chunks up, and let them partially thaw and drip back into the bucket. That makes a nice semi-concentrate, which I then steam down the rest of the way on the stove. Much cheaper than just boiling it all the way.
I have just harvested a couple of buckets of yacon – I know it is was too late really – anyway they look white when peeled but inside is quite brown. Are they off? They still taste good… Just want to make sure they really are okay before making syrup or giving them to people.
Hi Pam did you find any plants in WA ,if so where as I would like to get some
Hey Peter, A lady in lancelin had some and contacted me but then never got back to me. I will try and send her another email and if I have any joy will contact you. Cheers Pam
As Yacon is similar or a cousin to Sunchokes, I’m thinking, you could do this method with them and make kinda of molasses/sugar replacement as a feed supplement or Bokashi ingredient. Am I ‘on-track’ thinking this way…?
My four plants are nearly 2m tall and flowering. When do I harvest?
When I was a child, my father made sorghum molasses. He harvested the sorghum in the fall which grew kinda like corn, but taller and had a seed head instead of ears. The leaves would be stripped off and the stalks put through a grinder. A bar from the grinder was attached to a mule that walked in a circle around the grinder turning it. The juice was strained and cooked in a big cast iron black pot outside. Wood was used to heat the pot. The molasses would them be put into mason jars and would keep forever.
In later years he made sorghum molasses on a bigger scale and his evaporator was a series of pans with each smaller. As the juice got thicker and there was less of it due to evaporation it was ran to a smaller pan. This kept the depth enough so that is did not burn so easily.
I have just harvested my first yacon so am keen to try this and the other suggestions! The tubers are delicious raw and one setting produced an easy 5-6 kilo of tubers plus at least 20 potential new settings for next season. I am in love with yacon despite the flatulence from over eating at my first taste testing!
Exactly what I came here looking for! Thanks!
Excellent notes on Yacon – thanks everyone !! Does anyone know where I can buy some in Tassie ? I know it can grow down here but I cannot get any posted from the mainland due to quarantine restrictions. Happy to trade some of my 1 tonne crop of Oca for some Yacon !!
I’d love to plant some yacon also but would like to know where I can get plants to start with here in central Ohio
Hi! I made some Yacon syrup but I did not strain it. Will this be harmful ? Does it need to be strained?
Does anyone know of a source for Yacon tubers in or around Houston, Texas? I’d like to see if they would grow here…
I’ve found that baking yacons and then eating them cold the next day to be really delicious. Thanks for the syrup making instructions I’m keen to try that. Plus FYI I propagate mine simply by digging them up without breaking the newly forming stems and leaves – harvesting the bigger roots and then simply replanting the remainder. In this way I’ve increased my numbers of plants and tubers hugely and with minimum effort.