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Yam bean

Pachyrhizus spp (jicama, ahipa, ashipa, jíquima, chuin, bang kuang, singkama)



The yam bean (Pachyrhizus spp) is a legume but unlike its close relatives the soybean and other beans, the yam bean is cultivated for its large, tuberous roots. It is usually consumed fresh, cut in strips in salads or marinated in lime or dried and ground into flour for use in cakes and desserts. The pods are toxic when mature but can be used as a vegetable when young. The plant is a climbing vine with flat, kidney-shaped seeds, and the tubers range in weight from 0.5 to 2.5 kg. Its white/blue flowers are often removed (a process known as reproductive pruning) to increase yield and biomass of the tubers.

Three species of yam bean, P. erosus (jicama or Mexican yam bean), P. tuberosus (jíquima, chuin or Amazonian yam bean) and P. ahipa (ahipa), are cultivated.  

Where it is found

All three species originate in Latin America: P. erosus, (Mexico and Central America), P. tuberosus (tropical lowlands along the Andes), and P. ahipa (subtropical east Andean valleys in Bolivia and Argentina, where it is thought to have originated). P. tuberosus is also cultivated in many Southeast Asian countries.

How to eat it

Jicama (yam bean), avocado and pineapple salad

2 capsicum peppers, seeded and minced; 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice; 2 tablespoons rice vinegar; 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped fine; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper; 1/4 cup olive oil; 1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks; 1 jicama, peeled and sliced into strips; 3 cups lettuce or other fresh greens; 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced.

Add the peppers, lime juice, rice vinegar, coriander, salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix well. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continually stirring. Add the pineapple and jicama and toss well so that they are coated with the dressing. Marinate for 45 minutes.

Place the lettuce/greens into a large salad bowl and add the diced avocado over these. Add the marinated pineapple and jicama, and drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad. Serve immediately.


Ascheri, J. L. R., L. H. B. Zamudio, C. W. P. Carvalho, A. M., Arevalo  & L. M. Fontoura. 2014. Extraction and Characterization of Starch Fractions of Five Phenotypes Pachyrhizus tuberosus (Lam.) Spreng. Food and Nutrition Sciences5(19), 1875. Available online at: www.scirp.org/journal/PaperDownload.aspx?paperID=50453

Catteau, L., E. Lautié, O. Koné, M. Coppée, K. Hell, C. B. Pomalegni & J. Quetin-Leclercq,. 2013. Degradation of rotenone in yam bean seeds (Pachyrhizus sp.) through food processing. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry61(46), 11173-11179.Available online at: https://www.uclouvain.be/cps/ucl/doc/ir-ldri/images/CATTEAU2013.pdf

Gruneberg W.J., P. Freynhagen-Leopold and O. Delgado-Vaquez. 2003. A new yam bean (Pachyrhizus spp.) interspecific hybrid. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 50: 757–766, 2003. 757. Available online at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1025007918878#page-1

Sørensen, M., S. Døygaard, J. E. Estrella, L. P. Kvist, and P. E. Nielsen. 1997. Status of the South American tuberous legume Pachyrhizus tuberosus (Lam.) Spreng.: field observations, taxonomic analysis, linguistic studies and agronomic data on the diversity of the South American Pachyrhizus tuberosus (Lam.) Spreng. complex with special reference to the identification of two new cultivar groups from Ecuador and Peru. Biodiversity & Conservation 6(12) (): 1581-1625. Available online at:  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1018326805849#page-1

Sørensen, Marten. 1996. Yam bean (Pachyrhizus DC.). Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 2. Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben/ International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome. Available online at: http://www.bioversityinternational.org/uploads/tx_news/Yam_bean__Pachyrhizus_DC._311.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27. Accessed 29 Mar 2015. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3303?manu=&fgcd


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