Jicama plant: a vine with scrumptious tubers

There are many types of vegetables that you can grow at home and we think you should consider one particular to add to your garden. The jicama plant has many positive properties that are fun to grow and eat.

Jicama is pronounced "hi-kuh-muh" and in Mexico it is recognized as an earth element for the celebration of the Day of the Dead. This root vegetable has a history that goes back to 3000 BC. In Peru! It is a popular and important crop in its natural environment.

It's not the most common vegetable, but this edible tuber that grows from a vine is worth learning about. Jicama is a tropical plant, but don't let this stop you from giving it a try if you don't live in its ideal climate. There are methods that we discuss in this growing guide that will help you be successful.

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Brief instructions for care

The jicama plant produces tasty tubers that are widely used in Mexican cuisine. Source: Rigid

Common name (s) Jicama, Mexican beet, Mexican yam bean, Mexican potato
Scientific name Pachyrhizus erosus
Days to harvest 150+
Bright Full sun
water Keep the soil moist regularly
floor Sandy loam soil
fertilizer potassium
Pests Weevils and burs
Diseases Bacterial stain and fungal diseases

Everything about jicama

Jicama seedsJicama seeds tend to look like small brown kernels. Source: John and Anni

Jicama is native to Mexico and Central America and therefore thrives in full sun with warm soil and even water. Its botanical name is Pachyrhizus erosus, but it is commonly referred to as Jicama. It belongs to the family of beans (Fabaceae) and needs a long growing season.

The jicama is a perennial herbaceous vine that produces edible subterranean tubers that resemble a beet with a taste compared to water chestnuts with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Mature jicama vines can get up to 20 feet tall, although most who grow them prune them back to maintain size.

The vigorous vine has laterally growing leaves that are toothed and either egg-shaped or diamond-shaped. It produces white or purple flowers that turn into fluffy pods full of seeds. The tubers have a brown skin with white flesh that resembles a beet or turnip. If allowed to grow, a tuber can weigh up to 50 pounds! Although the smaller ones have better taste and texture.

The tasty root vegetables are the only edible part and have many culinary uses and health benefits. It's often used in stir-fries and salads and is great for snacking when it's hot outside as it contains 85% water. Plus, jicama tubers are high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and full of fiber. Although the leaves, flowers, and seed pods are poisonous, they contain a natural insecticide that protects the jicama plants from intruders.

Although it is considered a perennial, it is more likely to be annual as the root is the source of food. Jicama grows all summer, with a harvest of the jicama root in the fall. You can grow the plants from jicama seeds, but you will need to allow plenty of time for the jicama to mature. We'll discuss more about growing jicama in the next section.

Jicama. plants

Jicama plants are easy to grow but require a long growing season as in growth zones 7-10. If you live in an area with a short growing season, you have the option of growing her in large containers as long as she receives plenty of sunlight. Jicama grows well by direct sowing or by transplantation if you start seeds indoors early.

Plant jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus) seeds or grafts outside in spring when the threat of frost has passed. You need a lot of space in your garden bed or raised bed for Jicama to grow, as well as space for a sturdy trellis for each plant. You can start your jicama a little earlier indoors if you plant it in a container, and then take it outside when the weather warms up.

Choose a container large enough to hold 2-3 tubers and one that can hold a trellis to support the jicama vine. Full sun and well-drained, potassium-rich soil are ideal for growing jicama that will produce healthy tubers.

care

Jicama leavesThe leaves of Pachyrhizus erosus are inedible. Source: antefixus21

In this section we will examine how to grow and care for jicama plants. All aspects such as light, temperature, water, humidity and soil are important when growing jicama so that you have healthy plants with high yields.

Sun and temperature

Direct sunlight (at least 8 hours per day) is required to grow jicama. It works best in USDA growing zones 7-10 as it needs hot weather and doesn't mind moisture. You can cover your jicama at night to protect it from cooler weather. However, if the temperature keeps dropping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, your jicama plants will not be happy.

Water and moisture

Regular watering is required to grow jicama as it is not drought tolerant. Give each plant at least 2 inches of water a week as they grow in size. Keep the soil moist, but not muddy. It is best to water in the morning near the plant base, whether from a soaking hose or a drip line. Hot, dry weather may require more watering than areas that are more humid and receive more rainfall.

floor

Plant jicama in sandy loam soil that has good drainage but also stays moist. Growing jicama in barren soils is a recipe for failure as this plant requires a lot of food and organic material to get off to a good start. The best pH for growing jicama is 6.5 to 8.0. If you don't have optimal soil in the ground in your garden, choose to plant it in a raised bed garden or container garden.

Fertilize

Since jicama is a legume, it doesn't need a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Overfertilization will cause the leaves to grow well, but not the tubers. Fortify your soil with a fertilizer high in potassium and phosphorus at least twice during the long growing season.

clipping

Maintenance pruning is most beneficial when growing jicama. This means pruning the vine to keep it from taking over your garden and removing flowers so the plant sends more energy to the roots than to the flowers that are growing.

Multiplication

The only way to grow jicama is from seeds. Although it has tubers, we do not use it like potato tubers to produce a new plant. Once you have your jicama seeds soak them in warm water overnight to increase the germination rate. Even then, jicama seeds can take up to 20 days to germinate. The ideal soil temperature for planting jicama is 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can sow seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your last frost date. Use a heating mat and grow lamp to ensure adequate germination and growth of the seeds during this time. If you are planting or transplanting the jicama seedlings directly outdoors, place the plants 10 inches apart with a minimum of 4 feet between rows. If you are direct sowing, place the seeds an inch deep in the ground and 15 cm apart. Once the seeds have germinated, thin the plants to 10 to 12 inches apart.

Harvest and storage

Jicama tubersJicama tubers can weigh 2-3 pounds each. Source: Forest & Kim

After you've put the time and effort into growing jicama, it's important to harvest it properly and know how to store it to keep it fresh. Let's talk about how to harvest and store jicama so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

harvest

Since the jicama plant can take up to 5 to 9 months to mature, wait the appropriate time to harvest or you will end up with tiny tubers. The average yield is 4 to 5 tubers for one plant, with each one ranging from 2 to 5 pounds each.

The root vegetables will continue to grow if you leave them in the ground and live in a warm climate. However, the larger tubers don't have as much flavor and can get tough and woody. The best sizes are those 3 to 6 inches in diameter. Those who live in cooler climates will need to schedule the harvest right before the first frost or when you notice the vine turning yellow or declining.

Remember to stop watering the plant 2 weeks before harvest to allow the tubers to harden, which will also help them stay longer. Another option is to let them harden in a dry and warm place (at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit) for 1 to 2 weeks after harvest and then store them.

To dig up the roots, follow the vine to the ground and use a small trowel or shovel and carefully dig out each tuber. After removing the tuber from the soil, cut off each vine. Dust each piece in preparation for storage. Make sure you save a few to eat fresh in a pan or sprinkled with chilli and lime for a tasty snack!

When you've finished your harvest, chop the vines and toss them in the compost. We recommend removing all seed pods and using a hot compost process to ensure that any toxins break down adequately.

storage

Correctly stored Jicama will last up to two months. Put the ones you plan to store in a cool, dark place around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not put the whole fresh jicama tuber in the refrigerator as it will be too cold and will spoil if stored for a long time.

You may not have a cool area to store the tubers. There are many other ways to store this root over the long term. You can cut it into chips and dehydrate it, freeze it, or find a simple recipe and pickle the jicama.

Troubleshooting

Jicama leaves and grapevineJicama vines can reach heights of 4-5 meters with good support. Source: antefixus21

Fortunately, Jicama doesn't have a lot of growth problems, pests, or diseases affecting it. This next section shows what to look for and what solutions will arise for each one.

Growing problems

There are some growing issues that could affect your jicama. The first relates to water. We addressed this in the "Cultivation" section, but it is worth mentioning again. Jicama likes a lot of moisture, however Overwatering can kill plants. Keep the soil moist, not muddy, and plant it in well-drained soil.

Jicama loves warm climates, so of course it is not tolerated by cold and frost. If you're growing it in a cooler climate, change your growing season or plant it in a container so you can move it to warmer areas (e.g. a greenhouse or conservatory) if needed.

Pests

Since the plant is a natural insecticide, pest control is not a huge problem. However, Weevil can be a problem, although you won't see them often. Weevils are beetles that can cause harm if left to their own devices. You can spread diatomaceous earth on the mulch at the base of the plant to keep it from climbing the jicama, and pyrethrin is a natural insecticide made from dried chrysanthemum flowers that kills the adult weevil.

Pyrethrin is also effective against a number of other pests, such as: Aphidswho are opportunistic. While aphids do not prefer jicama to other species, they love to suckle juice from it and are a vector for diseases such as the mosaic virus.

Diseases

Root rot is a fungal disease that causes the roots to be sunken and deformed and can even impede the growth of the vine. To prevent this from happening, don't water your jicama and plant your seedlings in soil that will drain well.

Aphids spread the Mosaic viruscausing the leaves to turn yellow and develop a bluish-green pattern. Over time, it can kill plants completely if the leaves fall. The only treatment is to prevent it from spreading. If your plant gets this virus, remove it from the garden and destroy the infected plant.

frequently asked Questions

Jicama in the supermarketA large pile of jicama tubers in a supermarket. Source: Ken_Mayer

Q: How long does it take to breed Jicama?

A: Jicama can take up to 150 days to grow before you can harvest the tubers. Those who live in a warm climate have the ideal environment. However, you can start jicama seeds in late winter and plant the jicama seedlings outside in spring to give them a head start.

Q: Is Jicama easy to grow?

A: Growing jicama from seed is easy, but you need plenty of warmth and sunshine for the tubers to reach a decent size.

Q: are jicama beans edible?

A: No, the jicama beans are not edible. The only edible part is the root vegetables – the seeds / beans, vines, stems, and flowers of these plants contain a toxic toxin called Rotenone.

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