I’ve been trying to track down one of these for years. I’ve put my name on waiting lists, sent hopeful emails to likely friends, even posted messages on message boards, but to no avail.
They say it’s when you’re not looking for something that – ping! – it shows up, and so it has turned out with my yacon crown, which I found while at the 12th Annual Hampshire Potato Day on Saturday at Whitchurch, near Andover. I’ve gone on about this at greater length on t’other blog I write for crocus.co.uk, as it was a revelation: I never knew so many potatoes existed in the world.
But potatoes weren’t the whole story, and there were some fantastic nurseries in attendance too: Pennard Plants whose collections of heritage vegetable seeds I’d already admired last year at the Wisley Flower Show, and Edulis, possibly my favourite nursery of all time. This is because they specialise in unusual edible plants: I’ve seen them at many shows and plant fairs before and every time I’ve found myself in raptures over their plants (and usually laden with carrier bags before I can tear myself away).
My eye was caught by a little tray of bright orangey-pink oca, another vegetable I’ve been wanting to grow for ages and haven’t seen anywhere else. While I was dithering over that, the lady next to me asked what the big yam-like tuber behind them was (being observant, I hadn’t actually noticed them despite the fact that they were at least a foot long).
“They’re yacon,” the man said. At which I suddenly started jabbering away at him in a state of extreme over-excitement, the lady previously mentioned backed away cautiously and my kids (who have previous experience of these outbursts of mine) went off to hide under a nearby table.
The man turned out to be Paul Barney, the lovely and very kind owner of Edulis who clearly knows an obsessive when he sees one. He reached down and produced a big yacon crown he’d been hiding in a plastic bag on the floor. He said it was his last one, but never mind, he cut me off a big chunk anyway (I do like gardeners) and I skipped off with a grin on my face like the cat who got the cream.
Now I’ve got to figure out what to do with it. Paul said there’s enough there to allow me to split it still further if I want to, but as a yacon novice I don’t think I’ll dare try that until next year. So for now I’m potting it up and keeping it on the dry side in the frost-free greenhouse before starting it into growth at about the same time as my dahlias (which it very closely resembles, only about six times the size). And then… well, let’s cross that particular bridge when we get to it. For now, I’m just happy my search is over.