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Last year I grew jicama in my vegetable garden and I can recommend it as a vigorous, easy to grow and unusual edible tuber. Jicama is a climbing vine producing large, sweet, heart-shaped crispy tubers and is used as a salad vegetable or as a crunchy addition to fruit salads. It can also be cooked and used like water chestnuts. The tuber is very crisp when peeled and sliced. It can be eaten raw, garnished with chilli pepper and lemon juice, salted, used a vegetable sticks with dips, or stir-fried.

Jicama originated in Mexico and is also known as Mexican yam bean, Mexican potato or Mexican water chestnut. It is a high-protein, low fat dietary staple in many areas. Sometimes another vegetable, the Yacon, is also called Jicama although it is a completely different plant. This is because the word “Jicama” means “edible root” in Spanish (see my article on Yacon in the last issue).

Please note that, unlike other beans, the seeds, pods, leaves and flowers of jicama are poisonous.

Mature pods and seeds contain ROTENONE, a potent poison. It is only the tuber that can be eaten.

Jicama is a member of the bean family, (the Leguminosae), so like other legumes, it fixes nitrogen and produces pods and seeds. It is easily grown from seed. If it flowers, these should be removed, as flowering will reduce the root size. Dig the tubers when they are small – about 10 –15 cm, as larger roots may become  woody. Usually the foliage will have died down by this time. The roots may be safely stored in the refrigerator.

The only problem I had growing jicama was slugs having a nibble at the tubers. This can be controlled with snail bait (organic snail bait is available).

Easy Jicama Salad

1 small jicama tuber, 1 capsicum, 1 zucchini and 1 carrot

Peel and slice the above into thin julienne strips. Dress with a mixture of 4 tbspns olive oil, 2 tbspns lime juice, salt and pepper.