After having travelled the world and tasted many different things, I was a little surprised upon discovering what was growing in the Marlborough Community Gardens.
Richard Hunter is a founding member and trustee of the gardens and it was with a smile on his face that he handed us our first taste of yacon.
As you peel back the skin on the tuber with a sharp knife, you will encounter a refreshing and sweet-tasting flesh that is highly sought after in South America. It is referred to as the apple of the earth and there is certainly a place for it at the table.
A close relative of the sunflower and my favourite, the jerusalem artichoke, the yacon tubers contain inulin, an indigestible sugar, which means that although they have a sweet flavour, the tubers contain fewer calories than would be expected.
Refreshing, earthy and full of tropical flavours, this was a new taste experience. In South America, yacon tubers can have yellow, orange, red, pink and even purple flesh, all with distinct flavours. All varieties have a crunchy texture, and the water content is high enough to make juice.
Many South Americans put yacon in a fruit salad called salpicon because the tubers add a crunchy texture to the mix. Yacon also can be stir-fried, roasted, baked or made into pies and healthy chips.
I'm always keen to try something new, but after sampling Buddha's hand citron last year and yacon just recently, it would be good to finish off with an old-fashioned Kiwi pav.
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
3 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1 Tbsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla essence
Beat egg whites until stiff. Add sugar, a heaped tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Then beat for at least 10 minutes. Sprinkle vinegar, cornflour and vanilla essence into mixture. Beat until blended. Coat baking paper with water drops to allow it to stick to the baking tray and pile pavlova mixture in a 20 centimetre circle. Heat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
Put pav in oven and immediately turn heat down to 125C and leave for 1 hour. Then turn the oven off and leave the pav in it until cold (usually overnight). This makes a nice crust on the outside.