~ enlarge ~
Before World War II a far-sighted Italian agronomist, Mario Calvino, came across yacon while working in the Dominican Republic. He took some tubers to northern Italy, hoping the plant would make a palatable high-protein forage, as well as a possible source of sugar for producing alcohol for fuel.
From Calvino's fields, yacon was introduced to other parts of southern Europe; however, war brought this work to an abrupt halt. After the war, Calvino and his plant were forgotten, but the fact that yacon grew vigorously in this temperate lowland region, so far from its Andean homeland, demonstrates to us, 50 years later, that, like the potato before it, this is an Inca crop with worldwide potential.
The photograph, reproduced from one of Calvino's papers, illustrates the magnificent growth of yacon at Sanremo, Italy, on December 20, 1939.