Pachyrhizus erosus
Common Name: jicama 
Type: Vine
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Central America, South America
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 25.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Flower: Showy, Fragrant

Culture

This tropical root vegetable is winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12. Although it is a perennial vine, jicama can be grown as an annual by sowing seed in spring and harvesting tubers in fall. In the St. Louis area, tubers may be rather small by harvest time because this plant normally needs 9 months of growth to produce a good sized root. Plants may be grown from seed started indoors in flats or peat pots about 4-6 weeks prior to last spring frost date. Site plants outdoors in large pots or in the ground in full sun after all danger of frost is past and ground temperatures have increased to at least 50 degrees F. Best growth occurs in light, fertile, well-drained soils. Frequent and consistent watering is needed when plants are growing rapidly. If planted in the ground, space starter plants 6-8" apart in rows that are 12" apart. To enhance root growth, keep vines pruned to 3-5' and pinch off flowers as they appear. Harvest tubers in fall just prior to first frost. Depending on condition and size, potted plants may be brought indoors to a bright sunny spot.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pachyrhizus erosus is a tuberous rooted vine in the legume family. It is native to Mexico and Central America, but has been planted in a number of tropical areas around the globe. It has naturalized in parts of southern Florida and Hawaii. Common name is jicama (pronounced hee'-kah-muh). It is also commonly called yam bean, Mexican turnip and Mexican potato. It is almost exclusively grown for its edible tuberous roots which somewhat resemble turnips in appearance. All above ground parts of this plant (vine, leaves, flowers, pods and seeds) contain rotenone (an insecticide - see listing herein as botanical insecticide) and are toxic. Mature vines will grow to 20-30' long. Vines are clad with toothed or lobed, ovate to rhomboid lateral leaves (to 6"long). Violet to white flowers bloom in axillary racemes. Flowers give way to seed pods (to 5-6" long). Brown skinned tubers have a crisp white flesh that somewhat resembles apples and a taste that somewhat resembles water chestnuts with a touch of sweetness. Tubers have a large number of culinary uses: fresh tuber slices may be added to salads, soups, vegetables dishes, stews or served as an appetizer with dips or stir fried. In Mexico, fresh tuber sticks are sold by street vendors as a snack (tubers are cut into sticks and sprinkled with chili and lime juice). This vegetable is commercially produced in Mexico and several Central American countries for export to other countries including the U.S. where it is commonly sold in the produce section of grocery stores.

Genus name comes from the Greek words pachys meaning thick and rhiza meaning a root for the thick, tuberous roots.

Specific epithet means jagged for the leaf margin.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. All above grounds parts of this plant (especially the seeds) are toxic and should be kept away from children.

Garden Uses

This tuberous rooted vegetable has a number of culinary uses. It is usually not grown as an ornamental vine, although it can be grown on a trellis in frost free areas for display of its attractive foliage, flowers and seed pods.