• An introduction to the versatile root tuber called Jicama

    The jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus) is a perennial plant belonging to the buttercup family (Fabaceae). It is a fast-growing and climbing plant that can grow up to four to five metres tall with climbing help. The plant is cultivated for its edible root tubers. These bulbous tubers have a thin light brown skin and white tuber flesh. Only the root tuber of the plant is edible, which can be eaten either raw or as a vegetable.

    The Mexican yamboon

    The Pachyrihizus genus includes two other similar and edible yambones: the Pachyrhizus tuberosus (Amazon yamboon) and the Pachyrhizus ahipa (the Andean yamboon). However, the Mexican yamboon (Pachyrhizua erosus) is the most commonly eaten.

    Where does the jicama grow?

    The jicama is grown in subtropical and tropical regions. It thrives best in high temperatures with adequate rainfall and well-drained and nutrient-rich soil. Originally from Mexico, the jicama is now grown in South American countries like Bolivia and Argentina and Asian countries like China and the Philippines. The jicama is also grown in the Caribbean and East Africa, but the most significant producer remains Mexico.

    Harvesting the yamboon

    This plant can produce four to five tubers harvested by hand, depending on weather conditions, about six months after sowing. The tubers are harvested before flowering, when the tubers weigh about two to three kilos. After flowering from white to purplish-blue flowers, the mature plant forms pods with large flat and oval beans. However, these are not edible, as the leaves contain the toxic substance rotenone.

    The nutritional value of jicama

    The root tuber is starchy and sweet, yet low in calories, making the jicama the ideal snack. Moreover, this yamboon is high in fibre, minerals and vitamins, including vitamin C.

    Vitamin C

    The proportion of vitamin C per 100 grams of raw jicama is a quarter of the amount recommended by the Nutrition Centre. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps remove free radicals from the body. Furthermore, vitamin C strengthens the immune system and helps in iron absorption and connective tissue formation.

    Ways to use the jicama

    Before you can eat the yam, it should be peeled, as the skin is not edible. Because the skin is thin, it is easy to remove. The yicama is versatile and can be used among other things:

    in salads: the Mexican yamboon makes a good combination with pineapple, mango and avocado
    as chips: roast the pieces of yamboon cut into chips in the oven with rosemary, for example, and serve with a dipping sauce
    as an ingredient in Vietnamese spring rolls or in Vietnamese spring rolls as a substitute for water chestnuts: just like water chestnuts, jicama is sweet and crunchy and remains so during cooking
    as a binding agent: as jicama is rich in starch, it is suitable for thickening soups and stews

    As strips or pieces of raw yamboon, flavoured with salt, lime and chilli pepper, jicama is a popular snack in Mexico and is frequently sold on the streets there.