Tastes like...yacon?

Hamilton mum behind next big thing

Last updated 15:30 27/09/2012
APPLE OF THE EARTH: Dr Rober Welch of NZ Yacon Ltd, Associate Professor Merilyn Manley-Harris and TechNZ researcher Maria Revell with yacon in its raw state.

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It looks like a yam,  is known as the ''apple of the earth'', tastes as sweet as honey and has the slightly unglamorous name of the yacon - say hello to the star ingredient of the next big thing in health drinks, born and bred right here in the Waikato.

Research by a University of Waikato postgraduate student - and Hamilton mum -  Maria Revellis behind a new health drink being launched in the health-conscious Asian markets by a Hamilton-based company.

Developed by New Zealand Yacon Ltd, formerly NZ Biotechnologies, the prebiotic drink is a mix of blackcurrant juice and syrup made from yacon, a tuber originating from South America that has proven digestive health. Ms Revell spent a year working with New Zealand Yacon analysing the particular sugar that gives the tuber its prebiotic properties as part of her Masters degree in chemistry.

What she came up with was a drink that she said tastes pretty much like blackcurrant juice.

''It is not as sweet as a juice you would get in a supermarket because no sugar is added to it, but it tastes lovely,'' she said.

New Zealand Yacon will be sold in individual pouches people can shake and will be launched in the lucrative Korean and Japanese markets where yacon is very popular.

''They have an appreciation for food rather than pills and tablets to keep them in good health,'' she said.

New Zealand Yacon's director  Dr Robert Welch said Yacon was a superfood.

''It is one product where if you have a gut problem you feel a benefit," he said.

"Maria's work has been hugely helpful in identifying the best mixes and how to store them so they retain maximum biological activity.''

There are no plans as yet to bring the drink to New Zealand, where it is not as well known as Asian countries, Ms Revell said.

''Yacon is definitely not very well known in Hamilton, but hopefully soon it will be,'' she said.

''It is a wonderful thing.''

What is yacon:

Known as the ''apple of the earth'', yacon  can  help control diabetes,weight loss and much more.

A distant relative of the sunflower, yacon is a tuber vegetable resembling a yam. It is valued for its round or spindle-shaped tubers, which are usually eaten raw, but can also be boiled or baked.

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