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Useful Tropical Plants

Polymnia edulis

Wedd.

Asteraceae

+ Synonyms

Polymnia sonchifolia Peopp. & Endl.

Smallanthus sonchifolius (Poepp.&Endl.) H.Rob.

Common Name: Yacon

Polymnia edulis
Roots
Photograph by: KenFern
Creative Commons License
Polymnia edulis Polymnia edulis Polymnia edulis Polymnia edulis Polymnia edulis

General Information

Yacon is a perennial plant, producing annual stems 1 metre or more tall from a tuberous rootstock.
The plant is often cultivated for its edible tuber in the Andes[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
300
Title
Vegetables in the Tropics
Publication
 
Author
Tindall. H. D.
Publisher
MacMillan, Oxford.
Year
1983
ISBN
0-333-24268-8
Description
An excellent, in-depth look at the main vegetable crops that can be grown in the Tropics, plus many less well-known plants.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).

Range

S. America - Colombia, Ecuador, Peru in the Andes.

Habitat

Not known

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *  *
HabitPerennial
Height1.00 m
Growth RateFast
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusCultivated

Cultivation Details

Plants are unaffected by day-length and so can produce good yields of roots in both tropical and temperate zones, so long as there is a sufficiently long growing season of 6 - 7 months[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. It is a plant of higher elevations in the tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 3,600 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 12 - 22°c, but can tolerate 5 - 30°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Top growth is killed by frost, but the dormant tuber can tolerate temperatures at least a little below freezing[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 800 - 1,200mm, but tolerates 600 - 1,400mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. In S. America, they succeed in areas with annual rainfall varying from 900 - 3,500mm[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].
Succeeds in full sun and in light shade[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. For best results, this plant requires a warm position in a deep rich soil[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
], though it survives even when growing in poor soils[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 7[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Plants are fast-growing[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].
One report says that plants take 6 - 7 months to produce a crop from planting out[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
], though on our Cornwall trial ground they have cropped quite well with a 5 month growing period[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The roots are brittle and must be harvested with care to avoid damage[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The harvested roots can be stored for several months[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. Plants have not been selected for flavour or yield, some roots can be exceedingly sweet whilst others are fairly bland[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].
Yields of 38 tonnes per hectare have been recorded in South America[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Edible Uses

Root - raw or cooked[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
22
Title
Alternative Foods.
Publication
 
Author
Sholto-Douglas. J.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Not very comprehensive, it seems more or less like a copy of earlier writings with little added.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
]. When first harvested, the root can taste somewhat starchy[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
], but it soon becomes sweet, crisp and juicy and is delicious eaten raw[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The flavour is further improved by exposure to the sun although some of the crispness will be lost[
97
Title
The Ethno-Botany of Pre-Columbian Peru.
Publication
 
Author
Towle. M. A.
Publisher
Aldine Publishing Co. Chicago.
Year
1961
ISBN
 
Description
A very interesting book covering quite a lot of information on plant uses in S. America although many of the plants are not suitable for temperate areas.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The root can be eaten like a fruit or diced and added to salads[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. The skin has a somewhat resinous taste so it is usually removed[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The cooked root retains is sweetness and crispness[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. Individual roots can weigh up to 500g[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. The nutritional value is low because the root contains a high quantity of inulin, a carbohydrate that the human body cannot utilize[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].
The grated pulp of the root is squeezed through a cloth to yield a sweet refreshing drink[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. This juice can be concentrated to form dark brown blocks of sugar called 'chancaca' in S. America[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
,
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Leaves and stems - cooked as a vegetable[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
,
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. They contain 11 - 17% protein, dry weight[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Medicinal

None known

Agroforestry Uses:

Plants might be useful in agroforestry because they succeed under trees[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
], though in relatively sunless climes the plants are not likely to do well in the shade of trees[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - sow mid winter in a warm greenhouse and only just cover the seed[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frosts. Consider giving them some protection such as a cloche until they are growing away well. Plants do not usually produce flowers in Britain and therefore seed has to be obtained from other countries[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Division in autumn. The plant forms 2 distinct types of tuber. Large tubers, usually on thin roots 2 - 5cm long, are used as storage organs and do not have the capacity to form new shoots. These are the tubers that are usually eaten. Smaller tubers are formed in a cluster around the stem. These form the shoots for the following year's growth and so are the ones that should be stored. Dig up the plants in the autumn once the top growth has been cut down by frost. Remove the large tubers for food, cut the main stems back to about 10cm long and store these stems with their cluster of small tubers in a cool frost-free place. Do not let them dry out. Pot them up in early spring in a greenhouse. When they come into active growth divide each cluster into individual shoots with their tubers attached and re-pot these. Plant them out in late spring after the last expected frosts[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Cuttings of basal shoots in early spring in a warm greenhouse[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

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