December 27, 2006


Jícama (Pachyrrizus erosus) is a tropical legume which produces an edible tuberous root. This vegetable, also called yam bean or Mexican turnip, is popular in Mexico but is not well known here in La Ceiba.

I planted seeds three times before I finally had some germinate. I had to scarify the seeds, pour boiling water over them, AND soak them overnight before they finally germinated.

Jícama (pronounced hee'-kah-ma) is highly day-length sensitive. It produces tubers only in a long, warm growing season under relatively short day length. In the tropics, the tubers are produced in 4 to 6 months.
I planted these seeds in May, which may have been a little early.

In the U.S.A, it can only be grown in frost-free areas of southern Florida and Texas. Trials in California have only been successful when there has been an unusually warm October and November. Trials by ECHO in southwest Florida reported that regardless of the planting date (April through August), the tubers did not form until the short days December.

I planted them in the front yard so that the vines could grow up the metal bars of the fence. The vines are attractive with heart-shaped leaves. The vines hardly grew at all the first month after I planted them, but once they started, they grew very quickly.

The lavender blooms are said to be pretty, but mine only bloomed for a very short time before they started going to seed. They say to keep the flowers and seed pods picked off, but I didn't because I wanted to let the seeds ripen so I would have seed for next year.

I kept putting off checking the roots and then I got sick and completely forgot about them. El Jefe harvested them for me. We had 3 roots totaling 8 pounds (3.6 kg.). That is about average size, but I think I would prefer them a little smaller. These had exploded, too, either from the excess water they have been receiving (rain) or from leaving them in the ground too long.

These are the seedpods. I am saving the seeds for next year. I like the way each seed has its own little compartment in the pod. It looks very tidy.

Jícama is seldom bothered by insects because the seeds, leaves, and ripe pods are poisonous. The seeds contain rotenone, a potent insecticide.

I peeled (with great difficulty) one of roots, including the fibrous flesh directly under the skin, and sliced it thin in the Cuisinart. We ate some of it with salt, lemon juice, and hot chile sauce.

It tastes like a cross between an apple and a potato, but has the advantage that the white flesh doesn't turn brown if you don't use it immediately.

Jícama doesn't have a lot of flavor; its main attraction is the crisp texture, which is good raw sliced or julienned in vegetable or fruit salads, on vegetable platters, and with dips such as salsa or guacamole. It can be used as a substitute for water chestnuts. Lightly sauté or stir fry − it stays crisp when cooked.

They say that Jícama can be stored several weeks at normal room temperatures, or several months when stored in the refrigerator. Longer storage can be achieved by delaying harvest.
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