Jicama (Pachyrhizus tuberosus) is a vine in the legume family. It produces a tuberous edible root, rather than an above-ground vegetable crop. Its long branches are covered with large leaves and attractive blue or white flowers. As a food, jicama is low in calories (only 45 calories for one cup of cubed root). It’s crunchy and juicy and tastes like a cross between a water chestnut and an apple, making it an excellent raw addition to salads. After blooming, jicama does produce flat, pealike pods. These are not edible and contain toxins that can make you sick, so be sure to keep them pinched off to prevent curious children from eating them. But if you are able to let these pods develop, they will produce seeds that you can plant to start your next jicama crop.
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Things you need
- Jicama seeds
- Nursery pot for starting seeds
- Purchased potting soil
- Perlite or vermiculite
- Peat moss
- Garden space
- Sandy loam soil with good drainage
Purchase jicama seed through a seed catalogue.
Start seeds in a protected area that gets some direct sunlight for at least three hours each day.
Prepare a potting mix containing purchased planting soil, perlite or vermiculite, and a little peat moss.
Scatter seeds on top of your potting soil mix. Cover the seeds with ¼ inch of additional mix.
Water thoroughly and keep moist until your plants are about three inches tall.
Plan garden rows that are two to three feet apart.
Plant the young jicama plants 8 to 10 inches apart in the row.
Fertilise regularly with a 6-6-12 fertiliser, or apply generous applications of compost. This will encourage healthy growth.
For the best root production, remove flowers when you first see them appear. Doing this causes the root to expand in diameter.
Tips and warnings
- In tropical climates, it takes three to six months for jicama to develop usable roots, depending on the temperature and amount of rainfall.
- If you want to hide an ugly fence or garden shed, jicama vines will quickly cover it up.
- Sandy soil with few rocks is the best choice if you want your jicama to develop smooth roots.
- Store your jicama dry at between 11.6 and 15.5 degrees C, because colder temperatures will damage the root. If you store fresh root at this temperature range, it will keep for up to two months.
- Jicama offers success to most gardeners, as it is virtually insect-free and disease-resistant.
- Never to eat the seeds. They contain toxins that can make you very ill.