|Height about 1.5m|
My seeds, you may remember, came from Frank van Keirsbilck, who managed to secure a crop last year. He must dwell in what is, compared to here, some kind of Belgian banana belt, with wall-to-wall sunshine and soaring temperatures. At least that's how I imagined it as he described the weather in Flanders, last August, while in Cornwall, we sulked under a pall of cloud, mist and drizzle. Seed set here was, unsurprisingly, zero.
I am satisfied, however, that yacon breeding here in Europe's Wild Wet exists within the rootin-tootin realms of distinct possibility. Further east, on the outskirts of London town, Ian at Growing Oca has had yacons flowering for several weeks now, although only of one variety - yacon is said to be an outcrosser, so you really need two varieties that flower at the same time. So far, Ian's second variety has failed to oblige. Yacon has a simple, yet somehow, dastardly, incompatibility mechanism - the disk and ray florets are different sexes and are ready at different times. Because the females, located in the ray florets mature first, before the boys in the disk florets can produce their pollen, it is hard for self-pollination to occur. Good news for genetic diversity in yacon, bad news for would-be plant breeders.
I was all ready to bemoan the strictly stunted and non-reproductive status of my yacons, when I noticed some flower buds nestling in the tops of one of the seedlings. It's only the end of August, so maybe there is still time for a spectacular display and a healthy yield of those coal-black yacon pips that Frank produced last year.