Sweet, crispy, chewy and juicy all at the same time; yacon is similar in texture to jicama or Jerusalem artichoke but also a little like a yam.
I came across a recipe for pumpkin yacon muffins and realized that while I’ve heard of yacon and seen it in the store, it has always remained in my periphery. I chalked it up to one one more media hyped “superfood” and just sort of ignored it. Shame on me.... yacon is really quite interesting for a variety of reasons.
Yacon is the tubular root of a daisy plant, it is in the sunflower family which is why it is similar in texture to the Jerusalem artichoke although its appearance is lmore like a sweet potato or yam. Apparently it originates in the Andes but has made its way around the globe in climates that are suitable. It can be very easily cultivated under the right conditions.
From a culinary perspective, yacon can be eaten raw as a tasty snack or it can be added to a variety of dishes both sweet and savory, even though it is mild and sweet in flavor. In that respect, I equate it to a carrot, I imagine that anywhere you might add young, sweet carrots, one could add yacon for an interesting twist. Because of its particular sweet qualities, yacon has become wildly popular as a syrup or sweetener for foods as a low calorie replacement for other sweeteners. The pumpkin yacon recipe that inspired my search for yacon called for yacon syrup as the sweetener.
From a health perspective, like so many other “superfoods” yacon has been touted as an intervention for about a bazillion ailments, most of which have to do with lowering blood sugar and treating diabetes. This is due in part to the fact that the type of sugar/saccharide that makes yacon taste so sweet, is not metabolized the same way that regular sugar is, therefore decreasing the impact on glucose production and other metabolic functions. Research demonstrates that indeed when individuals consumed an infusion of tea made from the leaves of yacon for 30 days, there was a decreases plasma glucose and insulin levels. It may be important to note the results were based use of the leaves; most of what can be found in the market is the root. The other benefit of yacon in its root form, seems to be its prebiotic impact, it has a significant level of oligosaccharides which contribute to the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Yacon root also possesses a variety of antioxidants giving it the quality of decreasing oxidative stress and systemic inflammation.
I found yacon to be quite tasty and if you are in the market browsing for something new and interesting to delight your palate, this could be a nice treat.