Recognized as a health food, it is also known as the apple of the earth because although it is grown underground like any other root crop, its fruit resembles an apple or a pear. Also, unlike regular root crops whose carbohydrate content eventually turns to starch, then sugar, when ingested, the yakon stores carbohydrates in the form of inulin and not starch. High in inulin, it serves as a sucrose-free food for diabetics.
The yakon is also low in calories, thus making it a good, nutritious diet food. While a sweet potato contains 125 calories, a potato 77 calories and a taro 60 calories per 100grams, the yakon has only 54 calories. It contains carbohydrates (oligo-fuctans),which pass through the digestive tract unmetabolized, so that it is perfect for those who suffer from obesity. Add to this the fact that the yakon purifies the blood and whose high-fiber content assists in digestion.
The yakon is believed to be a lost crop of the Incas. A little known plant of the Andes, it grows wild in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. It also grows at medium altitudes in South America. In the warm, temperate Andian Valleys, it can be found at altitudes up to 3,200 meters. It can be cultivated worldwide, and in the Philippines, it is grown 100% organically.
The absence of harmful chemicals and insecticides makes it even healthier. A herbaceous plant with dark green celery like leaves, it has hairy aerial stems that reach up to 2 meters in height as well as small, daisy-like yellow or orange flowers that a repacked close together at the top of the plants. Yakon tubers are irregularly spindle to round and can vary considerably in shape, size and sweetness.
The yakon, which is a member of the sunflower family, is grown primarily for its edible roots. While it looks like sweet potatoes or yam on the outside with its brownish, sandy skin, inside, the yakon looks more like a juicy fruit such as the apple and the pear. Just peel off the skin, wash it, slice it up into pieces, and eat it raw. It feels just like a pear or an apple to the bite, with a crunch accompanying small bursts of juice.
The yakon can also be boiled or sauteed in oil. Having all the characteristics of a health food that aids in the maintenance of good health, the yakon contains potassium, magnesium, calcium, Vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, phosphorus, niacin, iron, carotene, protein, lipids, cellulose, glucide and fiber.
More than just being a valuable health food, the yakon has also been discovered to have medicinal values. The tuber can be used as medicine. Simply preserve it for 10 days so that it reaches its full level of sweetness, and then peel it, slice into thin cuts and eat it raw. Its leaves also have medicinal properties. Do the leaves naturally in the shade, then cut into suitable sizes and boil in water to make a cleansing tea. The recommended daily intake of the yakon tea is 2 cups daily. Because the insulin content of the yakon is 60 to 70%, it helps control the blood glucose and keep it at a normal level. So those who are eating the tuber will notice initial results within 7 to 10 days, while those who drink its tea can expect initial health benefits in as short as 4 to 5 days. Above all else, the yakon is delicious!
(-Tom Brown’s Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (Field Guide)