Yam bean is an oval-shaped root vegetable, related to legumes. The size of this tuber can range from one to five pounds and some can reach up to fifty pounds. It has a rough brown skin and a juicy, crisp, white flesh. Jicama has a texture similar to an uncooked potato, yet crunchier and juicy. The taste is somewhat sweet, with a texture and taste similar to a water chestnut.
Yam bean is available year-round with a peak season in the fall
Yam bean, pronounced HIK-ka-ma, is botanically classified as Pachyrhizus erosus. It is also known by various other names such as Sweet Turnip in Singapore, and as a Mexican potato or Mexican turnip because of its shape, appearance and country of origin.
The outer skin of the Yam bean is too thick to peel; its rough brown exterior should be cut away with a sharp knife. Often diced or julienned, Yam bean is added to salads or side dishes for additional texture and flavor. Yam bean can be eaten both raw and cooked. Sliced thinly, a large disc of Yam bean can be used as a “tortilla” for tacos or as rolls for hors d’oeuvres. A popular way to heat it in Mexico is sliced, chilled and sprinkled with chili powder, salt and lime juice. The color and crispness of this root vegetable doesn’t diminish over time, and refrigerated, it will keep for long periods of time as well. Yam bean is high in protein and low in fat, so it can often be found as an ingredient in Paleo and Raw diets.
In Mexico,Yam bean is recognized as one of the four elements used in the Day of the Dead celebration on November 1st. The other festival “elements” are sugar cane, tangerines and peanuts. During the festival, ‘Jicama dolls’ are made from strips of paper. In Spain, "Yam bean" refers to any type of root vegetable.