Peru is home to quite a few interesting crops. Root from Peru Holds Hope for Dieters, Diabetics:
Peru, the land that gave the world potatoes, is home to yacon, a tasty root that scientists say is good for the gut, potentially safeguards against cancer, helps absorption of calcium and vitamins and can lessen the blood sugar peaks from eating sweet food that are a problem for diabetics.
Yacon, which is native to an Andean region stretching from Venezuela to northern Argentina, has a crunchy texture like a water chestnut and is refreshingly sweet and juicy. Left in the sun, its sweetness intensifies, and it can be eaten as a fruit, consumed in drinks, syrups, cakes or pickles or in stir-fries.
Though packed with sugar, its principal appeal to the health conscious lies in the fact that the sugar in question is mainly oligofructose, which cannot be absorbed by the body.
In addition, oligofructose promotes beneficial bacteria in the colon.
Yacon — the root of a tall, leafy plant with tiny yellow sunflowers that Inca “chasquis,” or messengers, pulled from the pathside to slake their thirst — is thought to have originated in a region stretching from central Peru to northern Bolivia.
It was in Japan, Hermann said, that yacon’s oligofructose qualities were discovered. “The Japanese also found out that if the leaves are used in tea, it has the effect of avoiding the peaks that you have when eating sugary or starchy food, when your blood sugar level goes up violently,” he said.
Perhaps I could sweeten my yerba mate tea with a bit of yacon.