Traditional Crops

Yam bean

The yam bean  is a legume but unlike its close relatives the soybean and other beans, the yam bean is cultivated for its large, tuberous roots. 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

Ingredients: 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.

Preparation: 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.

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