How to Grow Jicama

Taxonomy & History

  • Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
  • Pachyrhizus erosus
  • Relative to the Sweet Potato
  • AKA chop suey potato (Hawaii), yam bean, Mexican Turnip (Mexico)
  • Although it originated in North America, it is most popular in China

Physical Description

  • Plant:
    • very attractive vine, which can twine up to 14 feet high or more.
  • Leaves:
    • Deep green foliage
    • leaves have three leaflets
    • poisonous
  • Flowers:
    • upright spikes of sweet pea-shaped purple or violet flowers in summer
  • Fruit:
    • Bean pods develop
    • Ripe pods are poisonous
  • Root:
    • The edible part is its enlarged taproot, which develops underground like a beet and tastes a little like a sweet water chestnut.
    • ugly, brown swollen taproot
    • heart-shaped

Growth Habits

  • climbing annual vine
  • grows as a vine; can also be grown as a trailing mound on the ground

Varieties & Cultivars

Categories or Types

Colors Available

Varieties

Growth Requirements

Climate & Temperature Requirements

  • If growing jicama for its edible root, it is best grown in Hawaii, zones H1 & H2
  • Mainly ornamental in zones:
    • 8
    • 9
    • 12
    • 13
    • 14
    • 18-24
  • In Southern California it will produce some poor-quality roots
  • In Northern California, you will get only foliage & flowers

Seasonality

  • Plant in late spring, after last frost
  • roots enlarge in fall as days begin to grow shorter, but it still needs warmth to produce a good crop
  • Maturity: 150 days

Air Temperature

  • Needs a long, hot growing season, maturing at 150 days from transplant
  • needs a lot of heat

Soil Temperature

Humidity

Day Length or Light Requirements

Site Conditions Favored

  • full sun

Soil Requirements

Soil Texture

pH

Nutrient Requirements

  • jicama needs rich soil
  • very high nitrogen needs

Propagation

Methods of propagation

Seed

  • Preferred method of propagation is by seed:
    • Indoors:
      • sow seeds 8-10 weeks before last frost
      • plant outside after last frost, when the soil has warmed to 50 degrees F
    • Outdoors:
      • sow seeds in late spring, after last frost
      • seeds should be sown 1/2″-3/4″ deep (although one source said to plant them 2″ deep) and 1″ apart
      • thin to final spacing (see Planting Out)

Transplanting or Potting Up

Seed Saving

Planting Out

  • plant out after all danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed up

Bed Prep & Soil Amendments

Bed Spacing

  • each vine needs ample room and full sun
  • space plants 6″-8″ apart

Row Spacing

  • rows should be 14″-24″ apart

Planting Depth

Alternative Bed Methods

Container Gardening

Routine Cultivation & Maintenance

Water Requirements

Fertilization Recommendations

  • apply high-nitrogen fertilizer monthly

Mulching & Weeding

Pinching or Pruning & Dividing

  • flowers should be pinched off for maximum root production

Support

  • Support with trellis or allow it to trail from a mound

Winterizing

Companion Planting

Helpful Companions

Harmful Companions

Companion to..

Pests, Diseases & Problems

Common Pests

Common Diseases

Symptoms

Whole Plant

Leaves

Stem/Trunk

Flowers

Fruit

Roots

Harvesting & Storage

Edible Parts of the Plant

  • edible root is crunchy and mild
  • the tap root is a heart-shaped tuber with white flesh and brown skin
  • leaves and ripe pods are poisonous

Yield

  • each vine yields one edible root from 1 to 6 pounds
  • the tap root will get to about 6 inches square

Days to Harvest / Harvest Timing

  • plant reaches maturity at about 150 days, so the tubers will be forming after that
  • the tuber develops after the vine is done flowering
  • roots enlarge in fall as days begin to grow shorter, but it still needs warmth to produce a good crop
  • harvest before first frost, or if there’s no frost in your area, you can leave them in the ground until needed

Harvest Methods

  • dig up the root

Storage of harvest

Fresh

  • stores very well fresh
  • if there’s no frost in your area, you can leave the root in the ground
  • similar to potatoes; keep cool and don’t peel before storage
  • store dry, between 53 and 60 degrees F; do not refrigerate; will keep 30-60 days this way

Canned

Frozen

Pickled

Dried

Cooking & Nutrition or Toxicity

Nutritional Benefits & Values

  • crunchy and mild, Jicama is a good substitute for water chestnuts or bamboo shoots in salads or stir-fries
  • makes a crisp and delicious low-calorie snack
  • texture is like raw potatoes; flavor is sweet and starchy
  • high in carbohydrates, dietary fiber.
  • 86-90% water
  • contains only trace amounts of protein and fat

Toxicity

  • ripe pods, leaves and vine are all poisonous
  • seeds are poisonous due to the toxin rotenone, which is used in pesticides

Cooking

  • Preparation
    • peel off the rough brown skin and eat the white flesh raw or cooked
  • Cooking Methods
    • usually eaten fresh
    • eat fresh on salads or vegetable plates
    • marinate and stir-fry
    • add to soups
    • fresh seasonings: salt, lemon or lime juice, chili powder
    • recipes with jicama often include cilantro, chiles, ginger, citrus, soy sauce, sesame

Recipes

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Sources

Information for this article was taken from these sources:

Jicama: How to Grow, Harvest & Eat

This post is a placeholder for jicama growing, harvesting, and eating information.

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