Organic agriculture and biodiversity have in recent years brought about a rediscovery of many “forgotten” vegetables that people especially in Europe and France conscientiously tried to forget as they reminded them of the privations suffered during WWII. The same people had then to make do with untraditional vegetables because potatoes, carrots and so on were confiscated by occupying forces or their own armies.
With sustainibility and bioagriculture made more important by the deficiencies of modern mass agriculture, those “forgotten” vegetables have suddenly come to the fore for the pleasure of all, and that of course of vegetarians and vegans!
This particular series of postings will introduce these vegetables one by one. I hope they will become useful for a long time to come to all my vegan and vegetarian friends!
1) Scorsonere/Oyster Plant
10) Cerfeuil Tubereux
15) Capucine tubereuse-Maschua
16) Chataigne de Terre-Great Pignut
Yacon is another example of a forgotten vegetables rapidly getting popular in Japan, where it is very cheap!
The Yacón is a perennial plant grown in the Andes of Perú for its crisp, sweet-tasting tubers. The texture and flavour have been described as a cross between a fresh apple and watermelon which is why it is sometimes referred to as the apple of the earth. The tuber is composed mostly of water and fructo-oligosaccharides. It has recently been introduced into farmer’s markets and natural food stores in the US.
Although sometimes confused with jicama, yacón is actually a close relative of the sunflower and Jerusalem artichoke. The plants produce propagation roots and storage tubers. Propagation roots grow just under the soil surface and produce new growing points that will become next year’s aerial parts. These roots resemble Jerusalem artichokes. Storage tubers are large and edible.
These edible tubers contain inulin, an indigestible sugar, which means that although they have a sweet flavour, the tubers contain fewer calories than would be expected.
Yacón plants can grow to over 2 meters in height and produce small, yellow inconspicuous flowers at the end of the growing season. Unlike many other root vegetables domesticated by the Indigenous Peoples of the Andes (olluco, oca), the yacón is not photoperiod sensitive, and can produce a commercial yield in the tropics.
Yacón provides for two nutritional products the yacón syrup and yacón tea. Both products are popular among diabetic people and dieters who consume these products because of its low sugar properties.
Japanese Yakon Salad
Yacón can easily be grown in home gardens in climates with only gentle frosts. It grows well in southern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, where the climate is mild and the growing season long. It has recently been introduced to the Philippines, and is now widely available in markets.
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.
One reason why Yacon is fast becoming popular in Japan is that it is easy to pickle in “Narazuke” Style (see above picture),
and as dried slices, making for a great snack all year round!