Earth Apple, 'Yellow' (Smallanthus sonchifolius)

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Keep your garden down to earth with Yellow Earth Apple, also known as Yácon. The earth apple plant blooms with clusters of yellow flowers, as a member of the familiar daisy and sunflower family of plants, Asteraceae.  In native regions of South America, specifically the Andes mountains from Colombia to Northern Argentina, yácon boasts a history of use by indigenous civilizations that lived centuries ago. Just below the soil, a large root system of tubers branches from the yácon, which can be eaten to control cholesterol levels, carbohydrate consumption, and beneficial bacteria growth. It has a pleasant flavor, that has been described as sweet and floral, resembling a blend of watermelon, apple, and pear. 

Plant yácon roots in the warmer months for an abundant crop that can be nearly double the yield of potatoes. Established yácon is tolerant of many soil types, but will flourish in a well-irrigated bed of soil high in organic matter and low in nitrogen. It prefers warm growing conditions where there are at least 7 months without a significant freeze. Yácon is becoming more popular as people become aware of its medicinal and nutritional value. As new gardeners unearth the plant powers of traditionally-grown vegetables like yácon, it is quickly becoming a popular choice for edible gardens!

How to Grow Earth Apple

Plant Type: Rhizomatous Perennial Herb

Harvest Season: Roots should be harvested in late Fall - early Winter. 

Mature Size: About 3 ft. tall and wide.

Soil & Moisture: Rich, moist, well-draining soil.

Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun

Zone Hardiness: 7-9 can be grown as an Annual Zones 4+

History & Traditional Use

Traditionally, Yacon was grown by farmers in the Andes as a nourishment crop for when they were working in the fields. Yacon easily grew in these areas, and they would utilize the sweet and succulent tubers to refresh themselves while taking a break from work. However, recent research is starting to indicate that Yacon is also a powerful anti-hyperglycemic, and naturally regulates blood sugar levels. This is due to the presence of fructooligosaccharides, which are a type of naturally occurring compounds called fructans. Fructans are made of a sugar called fructose and help the tuberous roots of Yacon from drying out. These so called fructooligosaccharides are found in other plants, but Yacon produces more FOS than any other plant!  

Recent research is showing that FOS has several beneficial effects that cascade from its role in the gastro-intestinal system. FOS creates helpful probiotic bacteria in the gut and colon. FOS also helps in reducing glucose levels- a risk factor for diabetes. In the Andes region where Yacon is grown, it has long been recognized that the plant is an effective herbal remedy for the treatment of diabetes. It is important to note that one of the main plant constituents that contribute to the unique flavor of Purple Earth Apple is the compound Inulin. This compound is found in other plants, such as Elecampane, and is also partially responsible for the medicinal effects of the plant. 

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