• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

jicama (Pachyrrhizus erosus aka yam bean, Mexican potato): legume groundcover?  RSS feed

 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Following links from this forum a while back, I learned that Marc Bonfils recommends black medic as a dryland substitute for white clover in his no-till continuous wheat rotation. It didn't seem exactly right, so I've been wondering what other good options are out there ever since.

One of my Christmas gifts last year was an order from the Baker Creek seed catalog, which I had never heard of. The catalog arrived last week, and reading through it taught me that jicama is a legume! I had first eaten some in 1998, and remembering the texture of those tubers made me wonder if jicama might be a drought-tolerant plant. The internet seems to say it is, apparently moreso if you harvest the flowers.

So now I'd like to try, or to hear from someone who has tried, jicama as a companion to cereal crops. There might be problems with root competition etc. Fresh aerial portions of it are apparently very toxic to insects and fish, and moderately toxic to humans, which might come in handy but could become a problem.

There is also a close relative called ajipa that looks interesting for this role, but from what I've read is less prone to spread out, and might not be as drought-tolerant.
 
                                    
Posts: 59
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I bought seeds from B.C. last year.  Started them indoors in March, out to greenhouse mid-April, in the ground early June.

We had both an exceptionally cool year last year, and a pretty dry summer from mid-June to early August.

The vines didn't grow a whole lot until almost September.  Instead, they sort of sat there and looked like little bush bean plants.  Then, they took off and grew a few feet.  Don't know if it's because we actually had a little bit warmer weather in Sept than in the rest of the summer, or something to do with the declining daylength.

Based on the weather and the plants, I didn't expect too much.  But, lo and behold, I actually got tubers about the size of baseballs.  I thought they might be tough and woody, but they were exactly like the ones from the store, crisp, sweet, and tender.

Definitely merits further experimentation in my climate, I'm just hoping for some better summer weather this year, warmer and not as dry.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh, cool! Thanks for replying. I'm excited to know they produce a yield in dry conditions.

Did you harvest them all, or leave one or two in the ground? I'm especially curious how they do when left alone for a couple years.

Perhaps slightly off-topic, I'm now also curious about Caucasian clover, which seems to similarly tolerate drought much better than white clover. Similar to your experience with jicama, it seems not to multi-task when it comes to producing leaves vs. storage tissue, but to follow a fairly hard-edged schedule.
 
                                    
Posts: 59
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:

Did you harvest them all, or leave one or two in the ground? I'm especially curious how they do when left alone for a couple years.



I dug all of mine up.  Leaving them to overwinter isn't an option with this species here, since it's truly tropical.  Our ground generally freezes to about 18 to 24 inches, but can freeze as deep as 36 inches during an especially cold winter.  Jicama roots wouldn't survive that, although some subtropicals will, such as Musa basjoo, the Japanese fiber banana, with heavy mulch and a favorable microclimate, of course.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Does musa basjoo ever make edible fruit?

I'm picturing a grain/jicama interplanting as an amazing place to "hog/chicken down" after the main grain harvest.  I bet in your neck of the woods you could leave the tubers overwinter, Joel.  It doesn't freeze that deep in the ground down there, right?  Worth a try anyway. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Denninmi wrote: Our ground generally freezes to about 18 to 24 inches, but can freeze as deep as 36 inches during an especially cold winter.


I have trouble imagining that!

I'll definitely order some seeds and see how it goes. I know the tubers are damaged by temperatures significantly warmer than freezing, but frost here tends to be very superficial, and I'm a fan of mulch anyhow.
 
                                    
Posts: 59
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
marina phillips wrote:
Does musa basjoo ever make edible fruit?




No, unfortunately not.  The fruit is tiny, and consists of hundreds of seeds like buckshot with a little bit of astringent, fibrous white flesh in between. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
marina phillips wrote:I'm picturing a grain/jicama interplanting as an amazing place to "hog/chicken down" after the main grain harvest. 


I don't know.

Jicama's aerial portions contain a chemical that poisons mitochondria. Apparently mammals have a digestive system that doesn't absorb much of it, which makes me think it could be an emergency treatment for gut parasites, but I might not risk setting animals to forage in fields of it, unless the toxins had mostly rotted away.
 
bunkie weir
Posts: 110
Location: eastern washington
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
denninmi, we also did the same with Jicama here. started in cabin, then to greenhouse, then outside in mid June. ours did the same cause we had a cold June, and just sat there with very little growth for the longest time. they picked up a bit, the same as yours, in the warmth of September, but never really developed, vinewise or tuber wise. we are definitely going to try again this year. i think we'll start earlier and try some in pots in greenhouse if weather stays cold.

thanks for starting this thread joel.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!