Yacon is a tall perennial herb native to the Andes of South America (Peru and Ecuador). Polymnia sonchifolia is a member of the daisy family with a distant affinity to the sunflower and dahlia, and is also known as Jiquima. It is a sweet, juicy, crunchy tuber that is peeled and eaten raw out of hand or in salads or can be cooked. The tubers resemble dahlia tubers in appearance and may be elliptical or spherical, purple with yellow flesh. The main stems may be used as a cooked vegetable.

Propagated by rooted offsets or slips 5 to 10 inches in length, spaced 18 inches apart and 2 feet between rows. Keep well mulched to prevent moisture loss. Use animal manures or fertilizer high in potash. As with all tuberous plants, a light organic soil is recommended to allow the tubers to expand. Soil should be moist; not wet or soggy.

The plant has hairy green stems with purple markings. Leaves are opposite, glabrous and serrated. Flowers are orange or yellow. The plant grows both in the tropics and subtropics and is tolerant of a wide range of climatic and soil conditions. Plants can reach a height of eight feet under optimum conditions. Harvest of tubers is approximately 200 days from planting or when tops go black. Tubers may be removed from the perimeter of plants which will continue to grow.

Jute Mallow is a short-lived perennial herb, native to China grown for its leaves and young shoots. Corchorus olitorius of the Tiliaceae family is also known as Bush okra, Jew's mallow, Tossa jute, West African sorrel.

Propagated from seeds planted in a bed prepared with a balanced application of manure or fertilizer. Soaking the seeds in warm water will avoid erratic germination. Seedlings should be thinned to 10 to 12 inches apart. During its growing cycle the plant requires additional applications of a balanced fertilizer.

It has long slender, upright, fibrous stems and alternate, light-green leaves which are deciduous. Has a deep yellow flower, either solitary or in cymes. The fruit is a long, cylindrical, beaked capsule, containing 180 to 230 seeds per capsule. The plant is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, but optimum growth is achieved in a sandy loam, high in organic material and high moisture retention capability.

Although the plant is tolerant of high rainfall levels, it doesn't like wet feet.

Leaves and young shoots can be harvested 40 to 60 days after transplanting or sowing. Removal of terminal shoots encourages lateral branching. The leaves and shoots contain a mucilage and are generally cooked as a vegetable. The protein content of the young leaves is approximately 1.5%, but the older leaves have a higher content, varying from 5 to 6%. It is also high in calcium, phosphorus, carotene and ascorbic acid.

Extract from Fruit Gardener, California Rare Fruit Growers, February, 1990

DATE: September 1990

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