Jicama (scientific name Pachyrhizus erosus) is a vine native to Mexico and is also called Mexican yam or Mexican turnip. These names basically talk about the edible root of the plant. Jicama is a species that belongs to genus Pachyrhizus of the family Fabaceae. Most plants belonging to this genus are generally known as yam bean, but this term can also be used to denote jicama. In fact, most major species that belong to yam beans are native to the two Americas.
Usually, jicama vines grow up to 4 meters to 5 meters in height provided they are given appropriate support. The root of this plant can grow up to a length of about 2 meters and its weight may be as much as 20 kg. In 2010, people in Philippines, where the vine is known as singkamas, found a jicama root which weighed 23 kg.
Jicama is vulnerable to frosts and, hence, it should ideally be grown in places where the climatic conditions guarantee no frost for nine months at a stretch. This is necessary if you want to reap a rich harvest of large tubers or desire to grow the species commercially. However, you can still grow this plant in places where there is no frost for a minimum of five months. Even when grown in such conditions, the plants will grow tubers, which will, however, be smaller in size. You can sow the seeds of jicama about 8 to 10 weeks prior to the last frost in spring in places having warm, temperate climatic conditions and where there is no frost for at least five months. It is advisable that you provide the seeds with heat from the bottom, because the seeds need a warm temperature to sprout. Hence, you will be required to keep the pots in a warm place.
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It is not advisable to grow jicama in places where the growing season of the plants is very short. However, they can still be cultured in greenhouses even in such areas. If you are living in tropical regions, you can sow jicama seeds during any season. In sub-tropical regions, jicama seeds should only be sown when the soil has begun to warm up in spring.
The jicama tuber is a crunchy and sweet food whose physical appearance is akin to that of a turnip. However, jicama and turnips are not only two different plants, but they are also not related to one another. People in South Africa have cultivated jicama for several centuries. In addition, this vegetable is also a favourite vegetable of the Mexicans, who use it in several cuisines. Jicama has an exceptional flavour that enhances the taste of salsas, salads, and various other vegetable dishes. At times, jicama tubers grow very large. However, jicama tubers that grow in excess of two fists in size start converting the sugars that are responsible for their sweet flavour into starches. When this occurs, the tubers have a somewhat woody flavour.
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It is advisable that while buying jicama tubers from stores, you should go for the medium sized tubers that are firm and have dry roots. Wet tubers or those having spots hint that they may have started rotting. In addition, you should never be tempted to purchase the extremely large tubers, as they may not be very tasty. You should also not store jicama tubers in refrigerators, because storing these tubers in temperatures below 50°F (10°C) will harm them.
It is best to consume jicama tubers raw and, at times, they are great when consumed plain, without salt or any other ingredient. While preparing Chinese dishes, some people often use jicama tubers as an alternative for water chestnut. When you are using them as a water chestnut substitute, you should add them just before serving the dish. Jicama roots are also used in stews, stuffed foods, juiced drinks and an assortment of different recipes. Apart from its exceptional taste and texture, jicama roots add essence to other foods. Therefore, it is an excellent food for undertaking experimental cooking. These tubers are a wonderful source of vitamin C. In addition, the tubers are also fat free, which makes them excellent snacks.
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Jicama vines grow excellently in warm and arid climatic conditions. You can plant as well as grow jicama or the Mexican yam throughout the year. However, winter is the best time for growing these tubers. Plants that germinate during the end of spring usually have an inclination to generate vigorous tubers by the time it is winter. On the other hand, plants that sprout during the summer produce tubers that are extremely flavourful. However, the tubers that develop during the summer are relatively smaller in size. Jicama vines have a preference for complete sun and reasonable amount of rainfall. These plants are susceptible to damage by frost. Therefore, it is not advisable to grow jicama tubers in the northern climatic conditions. As the remaining parts of jicama plants are poisonous, they form an effective natural insecticide. In fact, the plant uses its parts above the ground to protect it from destructive insects.
The jicama tubers contain rich amounts of dietary fiber, which can be beneficial in preventing as well as treating hemorrhoids. Fiber is known to facilitate passage of foods through the digestive tract as well as speed up the movement and excretion of feces without causing any pain and with lesser efforts to get rid of them. As a result, consumption of jicama roots can alleviate pain for people suffering from hemorrhoids. In order to prevent hemorrhoids, you can consume the juice of jicama roots every day in the morning.
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Jicama contains a number of chemical compounds that have been found to be useful in bringing down the fevers. One may consume jicama tubers raw directly or extract their juice and drink it twice daily - once in the morning and then again in the evening.
Apart from the above mentioned health benefits of jicama, this tuber can also be employed to maintain normal blood sugar levels. In fact, the dietary fiber content of jicama tubers has a vital role in bringing down elevated levels of blood sugar, as the body absorbs it very slowly. Moreover, our body does not convert the entire ingested tuber into glucose. As a result, jicama's fiber content helps to regulate blood sugar level and is useful for people with diabetic mellitus. If you wish to use jicama tubers to maintain normal levels of blood sugar, it is advisable that you drink the juice of the tubers. Shred the tubers and filter the juice before drinking it twice daily - in the morning and again in evening.
A health condition called oral thrush causes the skin inside the mouth to erode. Precisely speaking, the inside walls of the cheek as well as the tongue are affected. The main reason for this condition is deficiency of vitamin C, decreasing endurance levels or even allergies. Jicama contains significant amounts of vitamin C, which acts in the form of antioxidants and may possibly help to accelerate the healing process of oral thrush in patients consuming this tuber or its juice. People suffering from oral thrush may use the juice of jicama after it is diluted by adding water and sweetened with honey.
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Jicama has been found to be especially beneficial for women, as it contains phytoestrogens. In fact, phytoestrogens become essential for women as they grow older. It helps them in maintaining their quality of life. When women enter menopausal phase, her body stops producing estrogen or the amount produced by her body is too insufficient. As a result, such women are inclined to endure physical setbacks, such as their skin rapidly becoming wrinkled, while their organs tend to become shrivelled. At the same time, their bones become brittle and susceptible to fracture and breaking. As jicama encloses phytoestrogens, consuming this food is excellent for women who have already entered menopause. Consuming the juice of jicama tubers is extremely beneficial for older women, as it helps them to look fresher as well as more attractive.
You may also drink the juice of jicama tubers to treat high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Jicama tubers enclose sufficient water and dietary fiber, which are effective in lowering the blood cholesterol levels. Apart from the rich water and dietary fiber content, jicama tubers also enclose significant amounts of vitamin C, which serves as an antioxidant and may help in lowering the levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Naturopaths recommend that you should consume jicama raw and in its original form, without adding salt or sauce to it. As the tuber is cold by nature and possesses alkaline properties, its consumption helps to rapidly absorb any surplus stomach acid.
Jicama is an excellent food that has a vital role in maintaining as well as augmenting the body's immune system. Jicama contains a number of phytonutrients and vitamin C and these are vital for maintaining the normal immune system, thereby preventing one from contacting infections and developing various diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and other harmful microbes.
Since jicama encloses various valuable nutrients, it can also be used to prepared beauty potions. Therefore, it is not surprising that jicama is regularly used as an ingredient in an assortment of creams as well as body lotions. Many people typically use fresh jicama in the form of a facial beauty mask or even cleansing materials. Preparing the facial mask with jicama is quite simple - grate the jicama tuber as per requirement and crush the grated pieces prior to applying them on your face. Rub the crushed jicama gently on your face in rotating movements. These masks prepared from freshly obtained jicama tubers are very soothing. At the same time, they reduce acne and also keep the face free from scars.
Usually jicama tubers are used together with chilli powder, ginger, cilantro, red onion, lime, lemon, oranges, salsa, soy sauce, sesame oil and grilled fish. You can also slice jicama tubers into very thin pieces and dip them in salsa. Jicama tubers are very popular among Mexicans, who use them in salads, soups, fruit bars, fruit combinations and various cooked dishes. While the tuber of the jicama plant is edible as well as very nutritious, the remaining parts of this plant are extremely poisonous. The seeds of this plant enclose a substance called rotenone, which is a toxin that is used to destroy various insects and even fish.
The exterior of jicama root is paper-thin and has a yellow appearance. On the other hand, the inside of the root has a white hue and its texture is crispy having a resemblance of a potato or pear. The flavour of jicama roots is sweet and starchy, which reminds one of apples, while some others compare its taste to raw green beans. Generally, jicama roots are consumed raw after sprinkling some salt and chilli powder on them and adding a dash of lime juice. Alternatively, the roots are also added in soups and used in stir-fried preparations.
The carbohydrate content of jicama tubers is very high and it is present as dietary fiber. About 86 to 90 percent of jicama comprises water. In addition, this tuber also contains lipids and proteins in trace amounts. A substance called oligofructose inulin, which is also known as fructo-oligosaccharide, is responsible for the sweet flavour of the tuber. Oligofructose inulin contained by jicama tubers is basically a prebiotic. Jicama tubers enclose very low amounts of saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol, which make them a healthy food. In addition, these tubers are also an excellent natural resource of vitamin C and the essential mineral potassium.