Yacon, also known as strawberry jicama, is a member of the sunflower family grown for its crisp, fleshy tubers. These herbaceous perennials, native to the Andes Mountains, can withstand both warm and cold temperatures. Yacon produces triangular, hairy leaves on stalks up to 5 feet high, and produces bright-yellow, sunflower-like blossoms in summer. Their ruddy-colored tubers, which can grow up to 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches in length, resemble sweet potatoes. The crisp, juicy, inner root, which is eaten raw in salads or cooked in stews, has a refreshingly sweet taste.
Find a shady spot in your garden sheltered from strong winds. Use the shovel to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 1 foot. Amend the soil as necessary with organic compost to make rich, moisture retentive loam.
Plant a piece of yacon rhizome with at least one sprouting eye 3 to 4 inches deep. Place the rhizome with the sprout facing upward. If there are sprouts on more than one side of the rhizome, just place the largest one facing up. Don't worry--the rest will find their way to the surface as well.
Water the yacon rhizome well at planting time, and then water as necessary to keep soil evenly moist. Do not let the soil dry out, or the plant will become dormant before the roots have fully developed.
Cut the plants off at the base with loppers when the leaves begin to die and the stalks become woody, about five to eight months after planting. Carefully dig up the tubers with the shovel and brush the dirt off with your hands. Wash the tubers well and then pat dry with paper towels. When tubers are thoroughly dry, place them loosely in paper bags and store in a cool, dry place out of direct light.