What Is Jicama?

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A popular vegetable of Mexican cuisine, Jicama is also known as Yam Bean or Mexican turnip. Although the edible root resembles a  turnip, yet there is no interrelation between a turnip and a Jicama. The scientific name of Jicama is Pachyrizus erosus, belonging to the genus Pachyrizus. Although the plant root is edible, it is unsafe to consume the rest of the vine. 

Jicama plant grows best in warm and dry climates, although the tubers grow better during the winter. Jicama plantation prefers a sunny weather along a moderate rainfall. If planted during late spring, great robust tubers appear in the winter. However, Jicama planted in summer give the most flavorful tubers, although may be somewhat smaller. 


What is the history behind Jicama?

Once Jicama was exclusively found in Mexico and the rest of South America.The Spaniards were the people who took Jicama from Mexico to Southeast Asia, namely Philippines. From Philippines, the cultivation of Jicama spread to Indonesia, China, India, Singapore and Vietnam. Jicama is called by different name in each regions of Asia. 


What are the various names of Jicama ?

  • Jicama is known as  “cu dau” in northern Vietnam and “cu san” or “san nuoc” in southern Vietnam.
  • Ethnic Chinese call it by the name of “bang kuan”. In Mandarin Chinese, Jicama has the name of “doushu”.
  • The Philippinos call Jicama as “singkamas” and prefer to eat it with shrimp paste.
  • The Thai name for Jicama is “man kaeo”.
  • In Bengali  Jicama is called “shankhalu” and in Hindi it is known as “mishirkhand”.
  • Kandha” is the name for Jicama in Telugu.
  • In Malay language, Jicama is known as “Ubi Sengkuang”.
  • The Indonesians  call Jicama as “bengkuang”. Padang city in West Sumatra is also known as “the city of bengkuang”, probably due to the misconception of locals that Jicama is a native crop of Indonesia.



What are the  nutritional benefits of  Jicama?

  • Jicama has high carbohydrate and anti-oxidants content.
  • This low-calorie tuber is an excellent source of minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and manganese.
  • It is rich in  oligofructose inulin, a soluble dietary fiber. It is an ideal sweet snack for diabetic patients and weight-watchers.
  • Jicama is packed with Vitamic C thereby offers protection from viral infections, inflammation and cancer. 
  •  It also contains small traces of Vitamin B-complex group  such as  pyridoxine, folates,  pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamin.


How to choose Jicama at the store?

While choosing Jicama at the supermarket or vegetable outlets, you should look for firm, medium sized tubers with dry roots. It is best not to purchase Jicama with wet or dry spots as it might indicate a rot inside the tuber. Overlarge tubers may not be a good choice because they might not be flavorful as the medium sized ones. Jicama can be kept in the refrigerator up to two weeks before it begins to rot.


How to eat  Jicama?

  • Jicama can be  eaten plain or along with with lime juice, olive oil, sautéed peanut paste, ground chilli and paprika seasonings. 
  • It can be  stir-fried with poultry, seafood, veggies or  meat.
  • Jicama is also a  popular ingredient for mixed fruit salads, fresh fruit combos and soups along with  other common  fruits and veggies such as  pineapple, carrot, orange, green beans, raw mango, apple, and sweet potato.


What are the side-effects of Jicama?

The seeds, leaf tops, stems and lower roots of the Jicama plant contains a toxic substance called rotenone, used to poison fishes and insects. Several studies indicated that this chemical can cause Parkinson's disease. Hence, prior to  consumption, Jicama roots must be peeled and washed thoroughly. 

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