There is always so much happening in the month of May that I am never sure what to focus on for this column. As I looked around the nursery, two items came to mind that I think you will find interesting. One is a new vegetable from Bolivia called Yacon, while the other is a very effective fertilizer for flowers and veggies that combines the best of synthetic and natural ingredients for a complete plant food. Here goes nothing!
YACON: Known as Bolivian Sunroot, this vegetable is a tuber from South America whose name means “water root” in the Inca language. It has a crunchy texture and a flavor that is a cross between apples, watermelon and very mild celery. You can eat it raw or cooked into other foods (it stays crunchy even when cooked). It can be added to salads, soups, stir-fry or pasta sauces and can be delicious when chopped finely into mashed potatoes. To prepare the tubers for eating simply rub off the thin brown skin with a “Scotch Brite” pad (no peeling is required) and then chop as desired.
Eating Yacon is reported to provide relief from acid indigestion and has been shown to reduce or eliminate acid reflux. The main sweetness in Yacon comes from Inulin, a fructose polymer which is not digested well, so it gets pushed into the colon where it is consumed by our gut bacteria, enhancing our immune system and overall digestion.
To grow Yacon, simply plant the starts this time of year in full sun, just like you would any warm season crop and let them grow all summer until the first frost. Dig up the tubers at that time, store them in a cold, non-freezing place through the winter and refrigerate after April. Sweetness will develop while in storage around January to March. Each plant can grow 3 to 5 feet tall and can produce as many as 8 large tubers.
SEA GROW Fertilizer: If you like how Miracle Gro works, but would prefer to use something a bit more natural for your flowers and vegetables, look no further. The Grow More company of Gardena, California has developed a soluble fertilizer (it dissolves in water) that contains not only the major plant nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium but also a whole bunch of micro-nutrients. These micro-nutrients are derived from botanical Seaweed Extract, blood meal and a pinch of Yucca extract for extra solubility. You can dissolve a tablespoon in a gallon of water and feed once or twice a week, or put a teaspoon in a gallon of water and feed every time you water.
Sea Grow comes in two formulas; a general all-purpose 16-16-16 for getting plants established and a bloom formula 4-26-26 that encourages flowers and fruit. I like to start off the season with the all-purpose and then move into the bloom formula after 6 weeks or so. Both formulas dissolve readily and you can actually alternate them every other week for a more balanced feeding program. Sea Grow is the consummate fertilizer for container gardens, whether they are flowers or vegetables, and when used consistently will produce amazing results.
So there you have it, a new veggie to try and a hybrid fertilizer that combines both organic and synthetic nutrients into a soluble blend of plant foods. Try them both out this season and let me know what you think.