Jicama – Singkamas (Pachyrhizus erosus) also called Mexican yam or yam bean is native to the Americas. It grows in a vine and flowers that produces beans that can also be eaten when young but not when it is mature because it contains a poison called rotenone so are the leaves and the vines. But we are more interested in the root of these plants. The root or the tuber which forms after nine months from planting is the part we can eat and savor. It has this light brown skin but the flesh is white, crisp, sweet and juicy and very good to eat during the summer months as a thirst- quencher. Although not a fruit, we eat jicama like a fruit, fresh. In the Philippines, we call this root “singkamas”. In my province, the town called San Marcelino is famous for jicama. During the summer months, vendors of this popular root are out selling to all passers- by, buses, jeepneys and cars of tourists that come along the town. I remember buying jicama everytime I go on vacation to Zambales. Unfortunately, it is only available during the summer months from March to May. It is because jicama grows in hot climate and prefers sandy soil. If you are starting from seeds, it needs to be soaked before planting 12″ apart. Feed with high potassium fertilizer and you will yield 4-5 tubers per plant.
Being in the bean family Fabaceae, it produces beans that can be eaten as a vegetable. It is often referred to as jicama bean. It can be used in “pinakbet” or “diningding” our local dishes in the Philippines.
Did you know that the heaviest recorded jicama was 23 kg. and found in the Philippines in 2010?
The way I enjoy eating jicama is when it is fresh. I just dip it in salt or sometimes in seasoned vinegar. But I also add it as an ingredient to my favorite fresh “lumpia” or summer roll. I sometimes add it to the mix when I am making “Shanghai lumpia”. Mexicans make salad out of it or by itself by sprinkling lime juice and chili peppers.
Jicama is very nutritious too. It is rich in Vitamin C, an anti-oxidant, and B-complex vitamins like folate, riboflavin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and thiamin. It also provides minerals like magnesium, copper, iron and manganese. It is a low calorie food with dietary fibers good for diabetics.