June 2, 2018

Yacon-Gaucho (Polymnia connata)

Yacon-Gaucho (Polymnia connata), known also under latin synonim name Smallanthus connatus, this is wild cousin of cultivated Yacon (Polymnia sonchifolia = Smallanthus sonchifolius) – well known Andean tuberous crop. Yacon-Gaucho is tropical perennial herb and as common Yacon it has edible tuberous roots, but not such large and not such tasty as ones of its cultivated cousin. But Yacon-Gaucho is very ornamental.
Yacon-Gaucho blooms easily and early and is very ornamental
It grows to about (1)2-3m=(3)6-10ft tall and creates large bushes of annual stems and very numerous “flowers” (capitulums) (in August and September). It blooms much earlier than cultivated Yacon. It is native to Brazil and it is said to be hardy to zone 8b, but after my experience I can tell that it is not frost resistant (the light frost in my cellar has killed the rootsin winter 2016/17) and tubers need to be stored in winter in slightly moist, cool, but frost-free place. They are easier to storing than tubers of cultivated Yacon. In taste tubers of Yacon-Gaucho resemble carrot, but is more aromatic. The tuberous roots are thin, branched and have pale color outside and dark (grey) inside. The tubers at the base of stems and roots are very small. It is the best to store whole roots with tubers by winter (not only tubers as cultivated Yacon). This is self-incompatible (so to harvesting the seeds you need at least 2 genetically various plants – i.e. grown from at least 2 seeds).  This is very ornamental herb, due to its large leaves (huge size) and very lovely, numerous “flowers”. Seeds germinates without any pre-treatment, but not in high rate (some seeds do not germinate). They should be sown shallowly or surface in well-drained soil in pots in mid spring and kept moist in sunny window sill. The seedlings should be transplanted outside after last frosts (without root disturbance). 
Young plants
Plant in flowers - late August
It can be very ornamental due to large leaves and lovely "flowers"
The tubers (long root tubers and small round rhizomatous ones)
Rhizomatous tubers
The cutted root tubers were dark inside
The comparison of cultivated Yacon (Polymnia sonchifolia) (on left) and Yacon-Gaucho (Polymnia connata) (on right) tubers     
There exists numerous other wild Yacon species (Polymnia spp. = Smallanthus spp.) - especially in South America. If you have available seeds of any of them please write to me.

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