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Jicama is a legume which belongs to Pachyrhizus tuberosus genus and Fabaceae family. This brown-colored root vegetable looks very similar to a turnip. The large tuberous roots are packed with flavor. It is called by several names such as Mexican potato, Mexican yam bean, saa got, sankalu, ahipa, man kaew, Chinese turnip, lo bok, and Chinese potato. Since this edible root has a unique flavor, you can use it in vegetable platters, salsas, and salads.

Characteristics

Pachyrhizus erosus and Pachyrhizus tuberosus are popular species of this root vegetable. These are grown in tropical America, southern Mexico, and South America's Amazon River basin. This legume grows on vines. The vine can reach a height ranging from 10-20 feet. It has large green heart-shaped leaves and blue or white flowers. These flowers later develop into green bean pods. The pods must not be consumed, as these are toxic in nature. It is advisable to pinch them off.

This vegetable grows under the ground. Some of the tuberous roots could even grow up to 50 pounds. A cup of jicama contains 45 calories, 0.86 grams of protein, 10.6 grams of carbohydrates, 0.11 grams of fat, and 5.8 grams of fiber.

How to Grow

Since jicama is a tropical plant, it needs 9 months of warm growing season for the root to grow and mature. It must be planted when there is no danger of frost. Before planting the seeds, you must soak them in water for 24 hours. You should select a location which receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. You also need to prepare a potting soil mix that contains purchased planting soil along with peat moss and perlite. Scatter the seeds in this mix and add some more mix on top. The soil must be kept moist.

You need to water the plants thoroughly, till they reach a height of 3 inches. Transplant them in your garden and place them in rows that are 2-3 feet apart. If you have many plants in each row, make sure that you plant them at a distance of at least 8 inches from each other. Add compost or fertilizer to promote the growth of the plant. When the blooming season starts in late summer, pinch off the flowers to promote root growth.

Culinary Uses

This vegetable is very popular in Mexico and South America. The sweet and crispy root is generally served raw as street food in Mexico. A dash of lime or chili powder certainly makes it a delicious snack. The Chinese use it as a substitute for water chestnut in many dishes. For eating it in its raw form, you must peel off the skin completely. This root vegetable can be steamed, baked, boiled, mashed, or fried. You can add it to fresh fruit salad or have it with dips. These blend well with many vegetables and seasonings.

If you are planning to use this vegetable for a dish, make sure you buy roots that don't have any blemishes. The root must not have any soft or wet spots, as these indicate root rot. Select medium-sized tubers that are firm and dry.