Nonetheless, things are moving… very…. very… slowly… in the garden at the moment. Everything except whatever ate my first-formed head of broccoli, which moved far too damn fast – faster than I did, anyway.
A few stalwarts – purple mustard, parley, garlic and shallots – are ticking along despite winter sunlight and absolutely no rain, and the globe artichokes are still standing, like gorgeous silvery statues scattered around the garden.
But it’s harvest-time for one thing: yacon. A real pomme-de-terre – the mostly delicious root vegetable you’ve never heard of. Just when the apples are getting a bit meh, the granny smiths slipping out of your hands and the rest of them hardly worth picking up, it’s time to dig up the “apple of the earth”.
The whole eating experience is deeply implausible. The tubers look a bit like turnips yet curiously you don’t feel like Baldrick when you eat them.
They’re crisp and sweet, a little firmer than an apple in texture but just as juicy. You have to peel them, and the flesh has a distinct resinous tang – someone has described it as a little like sugar cane, which is spot on. They would make a fantastic addition to a fancy-pants cheese plate, though my rather meagre harvest didn’t make it that far – too easy to crunch them as a snack.
Yacon share many features with jerusalem artichokes, but, critically, *not* the dangerous flatulence in the dining room or the irritating weediness in the garden. Like artichokes, they shoot up to six foot over the summer and then die back down. Mine have tended to keel over at a certain point, overburdened by their large, shapely leaves, but that hasn’t seemed to crimp their style.
I’ve been growing them along a fenceline that gets very little light from autumn equinox to spring, and they seem to handle those conditions, though I think I may need to fertilise and water them more generously this year. The copious fruits of our Eureka lemon tree are being pressed into the hands of all our visitors at the moment – I’d love to to the same with yacon, like some sort of Johnny Appleseed of the Apple-of-the-Earth.