The Jicama is Pachyrhizus erosus and is commonly known as the Jicama yam (or yam bean) or Mexican turnip and is part of the yam bean family. It’s a native Mexican vine plant whose tuberous root is edible. The root is made up of several potato-like groups with each fruit shaped like a sweet onion with the same sort of yellowish skin. The Jicama does not have the inner layers or peels of an onion, however, and is pale white in flesh. It has a sweet flavor and is often eaten raw.
The rest of the plant, including the seeds that sprout on the vine, is poisonous. The seeds are often juiced (crushed) and that juice is used as an insecticide as it contains high amounts of rotenone.
Jicama is indigenous to Mexico, but has since been spread to South America and parts of Asia for cultivation.
Growing Conditions Required For Jicama
Jicama grows well in the subtropical climate of Mexico and South America. The plants require both moisture and loose soil to grow well. Roots can go down as far as two meters and total fruit weight per plant can be as much as 20 kilograms (average is about half that). The few that are grown in North America are grown in greenhouses or carefully crafted tropical gardens. Outdoor attempts in California resulted in excellent vines that produced small tubers. Jicama requires a relatively long growing season, further inhibiting its growth in much of the U.S.
How to Cook With Jicama
Jicama has a crisp texture similar to raw potato or pears and it is sweet and starchy, with a snap similar to green beans. It is most often eaten raw, sometimes with salt or lemon, or even lime juice and chili powder.
Many cooks make Mexican chili and use Jicama as the bulk vegetable ingredient besides the beans. Mexican eateries also often feature thin wedges of Jicama served freshly-cut to be dipped in salsa as an alternative to tortilla-style chips. It’s also often used as a salad topper (straight or salted), as filler in a fruit basket, etc.
Jicama can be cooked in many ways and has become a popular stir fry ingredient in some parts of Asia, especially Vietnam. It’s also a popular fruit bar addition in Sumatra and Java. It’s often used as a replacement for water chestnuts since it remains crisp even after boiling.
Nutritional Benefits of Jicama
Jicama is high in carbohydrates and is a good dietary fiber source. It’s mostly water (about 86%) and has little protein or lipids. Its pre-biotic oligofructose insulin is where its sweet flavor comes from. It has trace elements of Vitamin A, calcium and iron, but is high in Vitamin C and potassium.
It’s a relatively low-calorie food, so it is popular in some weight loss diets and nearly all of its calories are in carbohydrates, making it a black list item for other diets.
Possibly the greatest benefit many derive from Jicama is its relatively high concentration of Omega-6 and smaller concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids. Especially versus it’s almost non-existent fat content.