Pachyrhizus erosus, commonly known as jícama (//; Spanish ˈxikama (help·info); from Nahuatl xicamatl, [ʃiˈkamatɬ]), Mexican yam, or Mexican turnip, is the name of a native Mexican vine, although the name most commonly refers to the plant's edible tuberous root. Jícama is a species in the genus Pachyrhizus in the bean family (Fabaceae). Plants in this genus are commonly referred to as yam bean, although the term "yam bean" can be another name for jícama. The other major species of yam beans are also indigenous within the Americas.
Flowers, either blue or white, and pods similar to lima beans, are produced on fully developed plants. Several species of jicama occur, but the one found in [many] markets is Pachyrrizus erosus. The two cultivated forms of P. erosus are jicama de agua and jicama de leche. The latter has an elongated root and milky juice. The agua form has a top-shaped to oblate root, a translucent juice, and is the preferred form for market. 
Pachyrhizus erosus, also known as Mexican yam or Mexican turnip, is a native Mexican vine, although the name most commonly refers to the plant's edible tuberous root. Plants in this genus are commonly referred to as yam bean, although the term "yam bean" can be another name for jícama. The names for jicama include Mexican potato, ahipa, saa got, Chinese turnip, lo bok, and Chinese potato. (In Ecuador and Peru, the name jicama is used for the unrelated yacón or Peruvian ground apple, a plant of the sunflower family whose tubers are also used as food).
The jícama vine can reach a height of 4–5 m given suitable support. Its root can attain lengths of up to 2 m and weigh up to 20 kg. The heaviest jícama root ever recorded weighed 23 kg and was found in 2010 in the Philippines (where they are called singkamas). Jicama is frost tender and requires 9 months without frost for a good harvest of large tubers or to grow it commercially. It is worth growing in cooler areas that have at least five months without frost, as it will still produce tubers, but they will be smaller. Warm, temperate areas with at least five months without frost can start seed 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost. Bottom heat is recommended, as the seeds require warm temperatures to germinate. So, the pots will need to be kept in a warm place. Jicama is unsuitable for areas with a short growing season unless cultured in a greenhouse. Tropical areas can sow seed anytime of the year. Subtropical areas should sow seed once the soil has warmed in the spring.
The root's exterior is yellow and papery, while its inside is creamy white with a crisp texture that resembles raw potato or pear. The flavor is sweet and starchy, reminiscent of some apples or raw green beans, and it is usually eaten raw, sometimes with salt, lemon, or lime juice and chili powder. It is also cooked in soups and stir-fried dishes. Jícama is often paired with chili powder, cilantro, ginger, lemon, lime, orange, red onion, salsa, sesame oil, grilled fish, and soy sauce. It can be cut into thin wedges and dipped in salsa. In Mexico, it is popular in salads, fresh fruit combinations, fruit bars, soups, and other cooked dishes. In contrast to the root, the remainder of the jícama plant is very poisonous; the seeds contain the toxin rotenone, which is used to poison insects and fish.
Spread to Asia
Spaniards spread cultivation of jícama from Mexico to Philippines, from there it went to China and other parts of Southeast Asia, where notable uses of raw jícama include popiah, fresh lumpia in the Philippines and salads in Singapore and Malaysia such as yusheng and rojak.
Jícama has become popular in Vietnamese food as an ingredient in pie, where it is called cây củ đậu (in northern Vietnam) or củ sắn or sắn nước (in southern Vietnam). It is known by its Chinese name bang kuang to the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia. In Mandarin Chinese, it is known as dòushǔ(豆薯) or liáng shǔ (涼薯), as sa1 got3 沙葛 (same as "turnip") in Yue Chinese/Cantonese, and as bông-kong 芒光 in Teochew, where the word is borrowed from the Malay, and as dìguā 地瓜 in Guizhou province and several neighboring provinces of China, the latter term being shared with sweet potatoes.
In Japanese, it is known as 葛芋 (kuzu-imo). In Myanmar, it is called စိမ္းစားဥ (Sane-saar-u). Its Thai name is มันแกว (man kaeo). In Bengali, it is known as shankhalu, literally translating to "conch (shankha) potato (alu)" for its shape, size and colour. In Hindi, it is known as mishrikand (मिश्रीकंद). In Telugu, it is known as kandha. It is eaten during fast (उपवास) in Bihar (India) and is known as kesaur (केसौर). In Malay, it is known by the name ubi sengkuang.
In Laos, it is called man pao. Here it is a lot smaller and tastes a little sweeter than the Mexican type. It is used as a snack by peeling off the outer layer of the skin, then cutting into bite sizes for eating like an apple or a pear.
In Indonesia, jícama is known as bengkuang. This root crop is only known by people in Sumatra and Java. Mostly they eat it at fresh fruit bars or mix it in the rujak (a kind of spicy fruit salad). Padang city in West Sumatra is called "the city of bengkuang". Local people might have thought that this jícama is the "indigenous crop" of Padang. The crop has been grown everywhere in this city and it has become a part of their culture.
Jícama is high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary fiber. It is composed of 86-90% water; it contains only trace amounts of protein and lipids. Its sweet flavor comes from the oligofructose inulin (also called fructo-oligosaccharide) which is a prebiotic. Jicama is high in vitamins C, A, and some Bs, along with calcium and phosphorus.
Jícama should be stored dry, between 12 and 16°C (53 and 60°F). Colder temperatures will damage the root; do not refrigerate. A fresh root stored at an appropriate temperature will keep for a month or two.
- Johnson, Hunter. "Extension Vegetable Specialist". UC-Davis.
- "Globalization of Foods-Jicama". Global Bhasin. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- 'Heaviest' Singkamas Found in Ilocos
- "Jicama Growing Information". Green Harvest. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- Green, Aliza (2004). Field Guide to Produce. Quirk Books. p. 194. ISBN 1-931686-80-7.
- Duke, James A. (1992). "Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants". Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. CRC Press. Retrieved June 25, 2010.
- "What is Jicama?". Innovateus. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
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