After a failed attempt at industrial scale cultivation and commercialization in Southern Europe in the 1930’s, Yacon is now emerging as a commercial crop in South America as well as in New Zealand, Japan and Korea. The tubers are now commonly found in markets in Lima and is even available peeled and sliced in supermarkets there. One Peruvian company is exporting tins of chunked Yacon to Japan where it is added to yogurt.
“Yacón has been cultivated for probably more than a thousand years in the Andes, particularly in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador and has been introduced into New Zealand at various times over the past twenty years; however its production as a new, commercial vegetable has not been sustained, so until now it has remained a garden curiosity.”1
In another commercial initiative, a group of rural farmers from Oxapampa, Peru, working with Scientists from the Andean Roots and Tubers project at the Lima-based International Potato Center have developed a process for creating a syrup from Yacon tubers that can be added to other products as a healthy, low calorie sweetener. While still in its nascent stages, commercial Yacon production will likely increase as refinements in plant breeding and production take place.
While there are a few distinct varieties of Yacon found in Peru, little if any serious breeding work has been done on the crop and it is considered a landrace at best. It is only recently, thanks to the efforts of a few intrepid plantspeople, that this unique cultivar is finding its way into the fields and beds of adventurous farmers and gardeners throughout North America. We have our former Research Director Alan Kapuler to thank for providing our original planting stock.