Angus StewartJerusalem artichoke and yacon

I have been fascinated in recent years with two very useful edible herbaceous perennials that are close relatives of the sunflower, Jerusalem artichoke (or sunchoke) and yacon.

Jerusalem artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is rather well known but the other one which I was given under the name Yacon has proven even more productive under my conditions.

The Jerusalem artichoke also goes by other names such sunroot and sunchoke and originates from the easten regions of North America from Canada to Florida and was cultivated by the American Indians as a food crop.

Yacon

The Yacon seems to go by a variety of other common names such as Peruvian ground apple, Apple of the Earth, Bolivian sunroot amongst others as well as several botanical names, including (Smallanthus sonchifoliusPolymnia edulis and Polymnia sonchifolia). Take your pick! As its common names suggest, it originates in South America in the Andes and has been used as a food plant by the indigenous peoples there for centuries.

Both plants grow readily from tubers that reach maximum size as the plants die back during the autumn. The tubers can be used either to multiply the plants or as interesting and flavoursome vegetables for the family table. Tip cuttings can also be taken when the tubers sprout in spring if you are needing to build up numbers. Good drainage and a reasonable supply of nutrients and moisture have given me bumper harvests from both species.

Yacon tuber

I use both plants for stir fries and as boiled vegetables but the best way I have found to cook them is by baking them in the coals of an open fire (although I am sure they would go equally well in a roast dinner also). Yacon has a somewhat sweet flavour in contrast to the nutty taste of the Jerusalem artichoke and both are reputed to encourage flatulence and one is left to wonder whether they could also be used as an alternative energy source of methane….

In addition to their edibility, both plants can also double as ornamental plants. Use them at the back of a perennial border or anywhere else in the garden that a 1.5 to 2 metre high yellow flowering daisy will fill a space. Be careful though, as once introduced to a spot they will make it their own and tend to take over.

Yacon

Jerusalem artichoke

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Angus Stewart

About Angus Stewart

Gardening Australia TV presenter, author of 'Creating an Australian Garden', 'Australian Plants for Year-round Colour' and 'Let's Propagate', garden travel guide, native plant specialist and breeder. Central Coast, NSW. Find out lots more about native plants at Gardening with Angus.

6 thoughts on “Jerusalem artichoke and yacon

  1. i saw Yacon tubers at the Qld Garden Expo over the weekend and they seemed to be selling. Maybe it was something in the wind….

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  3. Nancy Wood on said:

    I am growing Jerusalem artichokes (Sunchokes) for the first time this year. I just came across a source for Yacon and am wondering whether I should grow Yacon along with the Sunchokes in our raised 4′ x 8′ bed.
    Also, does anyone know whether Yakon is as nutritious as Sunchokes?

    • Angus Stewart on said:

      Hi Nancy,
      Yacon and Jerusalem artichokes will grow well together as they are both planted in spring and harvested in fall when the foliage dies down and neither is a real garden thug that will take over everywhere. I’d plant them at opposite ends of the bed and see which wins!
      Both yacon and Jerusalem artichokes have health benefits for those wanting to lower their blood sugar and cholesterol and also increase good gut flora. Although they are both sweet-tasting, the sweetness comes from inulin which we can’t digest. They are also a good source of fiber, which could explain why they both also seem to increase flatulence…
      Jerusalem artichoke has about 50% more calories than yacon by weight but it is also a good source of potassium and iron.

      • Nancy Wood on said:

        Thank you so much for your timely, informative reply. This was extremely helpful as we are hurrying to get the bed ready before the dirt delivery!
        We laughed out loud at the idea of planting them at opposite ends of the bed and seeing which one wins!
        We will go with BOTH!

  4. undergardener on said:

    My wife and I made a roasted veggies dish with Yacon, Brussel Sprouts, beets, carrots and potatoes. We both have the worst smelling farts, ever. wow! I’m actually kind of impressed. I think the gas comes from the Yacon and the smell comes from the Brussel Sprouts. 🙂 whew

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