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The plant grows fast and easily, and survives even in poor soil. It is not restricted to upland areas, and has shown excellent growth at sea level.

Outside the Andes, yacon is almost unknown. However, in New Zealand a few nurserymen now offer it for home gardeners and commercial planting, and the tubers are being packaged like carrots for sale in stores. It has been successfully introduced into southern Europe, but is not widely known. It has only recently been introduced to the United States, and amateur gardeners have found that it thrives in many parts of the country—in California, Oregon, New Mexico, Florida, Alabama, and northern Virginia, for instance. There seems a good likelihood that it could be viable in most parts of the temperate and subtropical zones.

PROSPECTS

The Andes. Yacon is little exploited even in its native habitat. There is probably an untapped demand in many urban areas, both among immigrant highlanders and urbanites themselves. Thus, given promotion and consumer education, this crop has a future throughout the Andes.

The region is the logical center for the selection and development of cultivars, and it seems likely that researchers will discover varieties with unexpected qualities. (Those now available have not been improved and are considered landraces at best.)

Yacon could prove to be a profitable source of high-fructose sweeteners as well as a fresh snack vegetable. It might also be a useful, perennial fodder crop.

Other Developing Areas. Yacon seems to have promise worldwide. It is already popular in some South American regions outside the Andes, as well as in parts of Southeast Asia. Although fresh yacon is not nutritious, it is an easy-to-grow sweet treat that could become popular in many areas of the tropics and subtropics.

Industrialized Regions. Yacon is easy to grow, widely adaptable, and seems to be unrestricted by differences in daylength. It is refreshing, low in calories, and can yield an industrial sweetener. Any plant with these features seems destined to become commercially valuable. Like jicama and jerusalem artichoke before it, yacon might find its way into upscale markets in the United States, Europe, Japan, and other industrialized areas as a food for dieters.



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