Pachyrhizus erosos

SINGKAMAS- Jicama, Mexican yam, chop suey yam, yam bean

Singkamas or jicama is a very popular summer savory snack in the Philippines. The large water content (about 90%) of this delectable root vegetable is a great thirst quencher especially during the heat of the summer. The white flesh of the fresh jicama is crisp and sweet and juicy at the same time. I remember, we use to bring bunches of jicama on the beach and eat them while in the water, the salt from the ocean water makes it more delicious.

In Zambales, my province, the town famous for growing jicama is San Marcelino. Everytime we go home to Iba, my hometown, we pass by the municipality of San Marcelino and you will observed that all buses, jeepneys and private cars will be swarmed by vendors of freshly harvested jicamas. We usually buy them as “pasalubong” (presents) to my cousins and for everyone to enjoy. We normally eat this root vegetable fresh but sometimes we incorporate this into our famous “lumpia”, shanghai fried lumpia or fresh vegetable lumpia. It is a good substitute for water chestnuts because of the nutty flavor. We also use jicama in salads, julienne cut the jicamas and sprinkle them on top of you mesclun salad greens and then use your own favorite vinaigrette or other type of dressing.

I was able to plant this in my garden when one of my fellow gardeners gave me some transplants. It did form a taproot but not as big as I expected. It was sweet though. Anyways, you need to have a big farm to have a good harvest of this delicacy. You can grow them from seeds. It needs full sun. The soil must be sandy for good root formation. It will take about four months to harvest but longer would be ideal if you want the tuber to grow bigger.

Jicama belongs to the pea family. It is native to Central America. It must have been introduced in the Philippines by the Spaniards during the colonial times. The plant grows on a vine and needs trellis for support. The leaves are green and the flowers are purplish in color just like winged beans. The roots are just like turnips in shape. I remember the first time I saw this turnip in a supermarket in San Diego, I really thought it was a jicama, so I immediately bought one and I was disappointed because it taste more like daikon than the jicama I am familiar with.

During my research, I found out that the leaves and mature seeds are toxic. It contains rotenone, an ingredient in making insecticide. So take the necessary precaution when handling this vegetable.

Jicama is low in sodium, rich in potassium, iron and calcium and vitamin C. It is an ideal snack especially for diabetics.