Jicama – the yam bean


I am trying more new veg this year, especially amaranths, but not all have been sown yet so I won’t mention them. But last month I sowed the yam beans (jicama) and they germinated well and have grown so I needed to pot them on from their sowing cells into pots and I thought they deserved a mention.

Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus) is a Mexican plant that is a climbing bean that apparently can reach 5m in height and has fragrant white or blue flowers. It is the exact opposite of runner beans which have edible pods and poisonous roots because this one has edible roots but the leaves and pods contain rotenone, the chemical from which Derris insecticide is produced. The large, crunchy roots can reach 2m in length and weigh 20kg but I am not expecting anything like that!

As recommended I soaked the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing and the seeds showed shoots within three weeks and now seem to be growing strongly. They are supposed to need 9 months of frost-free growing before the roots are ready to harvest so I will keep the plants growing in pots before I plant any out in late May. I am not sure quite how to deal with these so I will grow some in pots, some in the greenhouse border and some outside and see how I get on. The flowers are supposed to be fragrant so if I get any buds I will certainly let some open but better root production is supposed to be achieved if you stop pods being formed.

If and when I get the heavy roots, there is a lot of ways they can be used. They have a texture like water chestnut and they can be used raw as crudites and in salads. It is high in fibre and low in calories and the sweetness is in the form of oligofructose inulin which is a prebiotic and encourages bifidobacteria in the gut. These are, however, the same sugars that make jerusalem artichokes such a windy vegetable. The roots are also high in vitamin C.

Only time will tell if I actually get enough to eat!




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2 Comments on “Jicama – the yam bean”

  1. joy
    March 25, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    very interesting deris dust was banned I wonder if you used the leaves in water the same way as making comfry if it would keep the caterpillers off sprouting broc. just a thought. maybe wishful thinking

    • thebikinggardener
      March 25, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

      Yes. It was a few years ago now. It is certainly a thought and maybe I will give it a go though the trouble with derris was that it killed the good insects too.

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