Yacon

Botanical Name :Smallanthus sonchifolius
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Smallanthus
Species: S. sonchifolius
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonyms: Polymnia edulis, P. sonchifolia

Common Names:Yacon,aricoma, arboloco, aricona, arikuma, colla, chiriguano, ipio, jacón, jicama, jiquima, jikima, jiquimilla, leafcup, llacon, llacoma, mexican potato, polaco, poire de terre, potato bean, puhe, shicama, taraca, yacón, yacuma, yacumpi  Another name for the yacón is Peruvian ground apple.

Habitat :Yacon is native to the lower Andes regions and cloud forests of South America and can be found in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia. It is now widely cultivated for its edible roots throughout Andean South America and has been exported into Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, and even the United States as a novel edible root crop.

Yacon plant is  traditionally grown in the Northern and Central Andes from Colombia to Northern Argentina

Description :
Yacon is a perennial herb growing 1.5 to 3 m tall with dark green celery-like leaves. The plant produces both male and female daisy-like yellow to orange flowers that are pollinated by insects. Each plant forms a underground clump of 4 to 20 fleshy large tuberous roots. Each weighs, on average, about 500 g. The skin of the tuber when fresh is a tan to a light yellow in color but quickly turns dark brown to dark purple when exposed to air. Yacon is a member of the sunflower family and while it grows in the warm, temperate valleys of the Andes, it can be found at altitudes up to 3200 meters.
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Fresh yacon tubers are crisp and juicy with a delicate flavor reminiscent of apple or melon and a surprising sweetness that increases with storage. They are usually eaten raw, (fresh or sun-dried) or steamed, baked, roasted, or juiced into syrup. In the Peruvian Andes where yacon production is flourishing, one can find yacon processed into almost anything in the local markets. . . from pancake syrup, to soft drinks, jam, breakfast cereals, and pudding.

Unlike many other root vegetables domesticated by the Indigenous Peoples of the Andes (ulluco, oca) and mashua, yacón is not photoperiod sensitive, and can produce a commercial yield also in the subtropics.

Cultivation & propagation:
Yacón can easily be grown in home gardens in climates with only gentle frosts. It grows well in southern Australia (including Tasmania) and New Zealand, where the climate is mild and the growing season long. The plant was introduced to Japan in the 1980s, and from there spread into other Asian countries, notably South Korea, China, the Philippines, and is now widely available in markets in these countries. Yacón has also recently been introduced into farmers’ markets and natural food stores in the United States.

Propagation roots with growing points can be planted in a well-dug bed in early spring, near the time of the last expected frost. While aerial parts are damaged by frost, the roots are not harmed unless they freeze solid. Yacón is a vigorous grower much like Jerusalem artichokes. The plants grow best with fertilization.

After the first few frosts the tops will die and the plants are ready for harvest. It is generally best to leave some in the ground for propagating the following spring. Alternatively, the propagating roots can be kept in the refrigerator or buried away from frost until spring. While usable-sized tubers develop fairly early, they taste much sweeter after some frost.

Edible Uses:
The tubers are simply just eaten like a fruit or they are juiced and boiled down to a syrup. The leaves are traditionally prepared as a decoction and taken in dosages of 1 cup two to three times daily.

Current practical uses :
While yacon root is currently being marketed to diabetics and dieters… no blood sugar lowering effects have been published in humans or animals for the tubers (only the leaves). Because it contains a type of sugar that isn’t metabolized (as well as being much lower in calories), it is certainly an appropriate sweetening substitute over regular sugar for diabetics and dieters. Consumers should be aware however, yacon root is not going to help diabetics lower or maintain blood sugar levels as some are trying to market it for (and the tuber actually does contain glucose and fructose).

In local Andean markets today yacon root is considered a fruit and sold with other fruits like pineapple and apples (not in the very large and diverse potato section of the market). The tubers have a wonderful crispy sweet flavor which is enhanced with drying them in sunlight until the peels are slightly wrinkled. They are then peeled and eaten out of hand, chopped into salads, and steamed or fried. The tubers are also juiced and then concentrated into syrups and sweeteners (much like dark corn syrup) or further dried and concentrated to produce solid dark-brown sweet blocks called chancaca. Here in the U.S. several relatively new yacon root syrups are now available in health food stores and natural products markets as a low-calorie alternative to corn syrup or molasses. Try them… they’re great!

Unfortunately, there are also one or two yacon root capsules on the market today which are making claims or pointing to the studies for blood sugar regulation, and/or antimicrobial actions which really only pertain to yacon leaves and not the root/tuber. If one takes yacon root in capsule form, about the only real benefit is as a prebiotic to help gut flora bacteria and possibly increase the natural production of immunostimulating beta-glucans (but it will certainly take much more than a 500 mg capsule or two… remember they eat the tuber by the pound in the Andes, and not by the gram). To aid blood sugar metabolism, look for yacon leaves in capsules or simply dried and cut up leaves sold in packages. There are a only a handful of products to choose from in the U.S. market place as this is a relatively new natural remedy for this country

Chemical Constituents:
The yacon root or tuber is a rich source (up to 67%) of fructooligosaccharides (FOS). These compounds helps gives the tuber its sweet flavor however most of these types of sugars are not readily digested or metabolized easily by humans. For this reason, yacon shows much promise as a food for diabetics and as a base for a low calorie sweetener. These oligofructans have been recently classified as “prebiotics.” Since they are not digested in the human gastrointestinal tract they are transported to the colon where they are fermented by a selected species of gut micro-flora (especially Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) and help to balance gut flora and aid digestion. One laboratory study suggests that the prebiotic effect of yacon tuber extracts during the fermentation process enhanced the natural production of beta-glucans which act as non-specific immunostimulants.

In addition to these sweet compounds, yacon tubers are also rich in free fructose, glucose and sucrose as well as inulin and starch. Both the tuber and the leaves of the plant contain chlorogenic, ferulic and caffeic acids which are known to provide an antioxidant effect. Several sesquiterpene lactones can be found in the leaves of the yacon plants which have evidenced antibacterial and antifungal actions in laboratory tests.

Other chemicals documented in yacon include: y-cadinene, caffeic-acid, 3-caffeoylquinic-acid, chlorogenic-acid, 2,4-dicaffeoylaltraric-acid, 2,5-dicaffeoylaltraric-acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylaltraric-acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic-acid, enhydrin, ferulic-acid, fluctuanin, gallic-acid, gentisic-acid, inulin, melampolides, oligofructans, beta-pinene, protocatechuic-acid, rosmarinic-acid, sonchifolin, tryptophan, 2,3,5-tricaffeoylaltraric-acid, 2,4,5-tricaffeoylaltraric-acid, and uvedalin

Medicinal Uses:

Hypoglycemic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, liver protector

Main Uses (leaves):
1.for diabetes and high blood sugar
2.as a liver tonic and for liver problems
3.as an antimicrobial for kidney and bladder infections
4.as an antioxidant (especially for the liver)

Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
antibacterial, antidiabetic, antifungal, antioxidant, hepatoprotective (liver protector), hepatotonic (liver tonic), immunostimulant,

Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
antidiabetic, stomachic (digesive aid)

Cautions: The leaves will enhance the effect of insulin and diabetic drugs

Other Uses:
In colonial times yacón consumption was identified with a Catholic religious celebration held at the time of an earlier Inca feast. In the Moche era, it may have been food for a special occasion. Effigies of edible food may have been placed at Moche burials for the nourishment of the dead, as offerings to lords of the other world, or in commemoration of a certain occasion. Moche depicted these yacón in their ceramics.
click to see

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yac%C3%B3n

http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail514.php

http://www.rain-tree.com/yacon.htm#.Udw60b7D-eA

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