Sunday, June 19, 2011

Growing yam bean in Adelaide

I wasn’t sure whether we were able to grow yam bean or also known as jicama here in Adelaide as it is said to need a long growing season. But like angled luffa I was sceptical. So jicama was a new challenge for us growing them in our small little garden last warm season. Adelaide weather for me is a bit strange the weather change dramatically and temperature fluctuation is really high. Day and night temperature can sometime differ more than 10 degree Celsius. The normal summer will be blazing hot. So I expected many days of really hot weather and night which I won’t be able to sleep that much. During summer we always camp in the living room to sleep. However, we had only few really hot days and not a single night sleeping in the living room through summer.

I have never seen a yam bean plant my whole entire life. End of November I direct-sowed the seeds and when it sprouted it made me panic at first. I thought all my new jicama seedlings have been nibbled by pest because they were no leaf. if you use the camera and zoom in they do like small hands waving at you. But the naked eye view they look like it has been chomped by critters.


So it was a relieved to see their true leaves form. So next time we know what to expect from newly sprouted seeds.


More growth…DSC08195

When the first heat-wave came, all of our yam bean plants growing on the front yard veggie patch died. I did not have a very deep container to sow yam bean seeds because it was full with other plants. So without any thought of success I simply sowed some seeds in 25cm depth container and 5 seeds sprouted. Well I have to console myself if it did not give me any tubers, we still can treat them as green manure. So it is still a win-win situation. Yam beans are legume relative of beans and lupins. Unlike beans and peas which the pods are harvested, yam bean pods are toxic and other parts as well. The only edible part is actually the root (tuber) which is deliciously eaten raw.

polystyrene gardening (1)

Middle of February and jicama growing together with kailan.

kai lan

Early April of jicama progress. Jicama is a half-climber but needed help with climbing lesson on the okra plants. Suddenly we had ginger and nasturtium sprouting in jicama container some time during summer. Just to take note, we harvested the ginger and it was actually growing more rhizomes compare to the previous ginger harvest.

April container garden (4)

Our jicama plants did produce some buds at the end of summer but it never bloom. I suspect it is due to cold nights. I was hoping to collect some seeds and of course sharing it with other gardeners. Nope it won’t give me seeds.


This is how the plants look before we decided to quickly harvest all of them. I had to ask Lenay to help because I was too busy this week at school. Moreover, I just read that jicama tubers are very sensitive to temperatures below 12 degree Celsius it will start to rot. Believe it or not this is true. I should have harvested them earlier, yes sadly most of our tubers were rotten! JICAMA TUBER IS VERY SENSITIVE WITH TEMPERATURE. I had a bad feeling last week because suddenly nights were really cold because my husband who goes to work before 4AM told me several days when he entered the car it is 2 degree Celsius. The plants were still not looking that bad 10 days before we harvested them. Suddenly last week our jicama plants completely withered.


A lot of rain won’t cause the tuber to rot but please remember temperature is important factor to consider. Why do I say this because Lenay mother grows jicama plants in tropical weather (Borneo island) and after the plants died she just left all the tubers on the ground for months.  When Lenay went back to her mother place end last year she followed her mother to her farm. They dug some yam bean tubers to bring back home and some were almost as big as a soccer ball. She said one plant can spread to 5m2  of many yam bean tubers. Needless to say, Lenay was not impressed with our jicama harvest. Although some got rotten, I am getting excited on growing jicama again next spring because at first I don’t think we will actually got to see tubers.


Hooray! We can grow yam bean here in Adelaide and it is also possible to grow them in containers. I had one plant that were sowed early January which was grown in container. The harvested tuber were the size of medium size apple.  Just giving them 5 months to grow before harvesting should be fine.


This was the first time I tasted fresh home-grown yam bean. I think this is a plant worthy to grow and wait for 5 months. Definitely will plant much more next spring. Yam bean after washing out the dirt. See some got rotten?


We sliced those yam bean and dip it in Rojak sauce.


So happy to know the true flavour of yam bean. No more store ones for me. Can’t make a promise though, I might have cravings.We are growing kohlrabi for the first time this cool season. I read some comments that kohlrabi taste a bit like yam bean. Hope this is true and looking forward to taste it.


Leovi said...

Beautiful sequence of photos from birth to plate ... that rich. Quite an experience.

littlekarstar said...

I think you've grown pretty much everything! Such an inspiration. What do you like cooking yam with the most?

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Beautiful jicamas you harvested. I love them raw....with rojak petis + peanuts or asamboi powder.... yummmm.... purrr....meow!

Mr. H. said...

Good for you, they look wonderful. Can't wait to hear what you think of the kohlrabi.

DoanLegacy said...

Impressive! I love jicama, though the one they sell here, tasted very plain!

Mark Willis said...

You are very adventurous Diana - always experimenting with something new! Glad those Yam Beans were worth the wait.

Anonymous said...

Loved seeing those "little hands" waving!

I love jicama and never thought of growing it! Here in Colorado we do have a very short season but sometimes there are ways around and ways to fool those little plants-

Kelli said...

I've never heard of yam bean... so many great plants in this world! Its good to learn about them, maybe some day I will taste this.

africanaussie said...

I am so glad that you managed to grow jam bean and really those are not a bad size, even up in the tropics mine do not get very big. I have already decided that next spring I am going to plant lots of them. Maybe i harvested mine too soon- next time i will leave them in the ground until the plant totally dies down.


hi girl, what is yam bean in Malay? is it Sengkuang?

Jody said...

Hi there, thanks for posting, and with so many useful details. I'm sorry about the jicama. Next year you'll know.

miruku said...

Your garden can grow anything! I like to eat it plain. It must taste very sweet from your home garden.

Sue Garrett said...

How strange that the emerging shoot didn't have any seed leaves.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Leovi~ It was a very educational experience to us and fun.

Mrs Bok~Oh when you are in Malaysia don't forget to try fried popiah and another one which is not fried but are called popiah basah. It usually have yam bean inside. This traditional food is very delicious.

Cat-from-Sydney~Wah lama tak makan buah dengan asamboi powder. Do you think we can get asamboi in Australia?

Mr. H~Does kohlrabi grow slow when they start to bulb? One plants are producing bulb and it is only 3cm in diameter at the moment.

DoanLegacy~I know what you mean the stores one does not taste that much compared with frsh ones.

Mark~They were definitely worth it.

Mary Ellen~Yes they are always ways when one is determined and stubborn enough :).

Kelli~Yam bean are originally from South America. But they have become very popular in Asian countries. Especially South-East Asia because they like the climate so much.

Africanaussie~Good Luck. They grow much easier in your weather. Not a fussy plants.

Green Platform~Sengkuang in Malay. I did not know what it is called in English but saw the seeds in seed catalog.

Jody~I decided to document the jicama growing adventure this year, so we remember how to grow them better next year.

Milka~Not everything...I don't have my favourite pandan plant. It was really good. Hopefully you will have a go with growing sengkuang as well.

Sue~I thought it will be similar to bean or peas at first. But it looks very different.


owh it is a sengkuang... even Google Translator doesn't has "sengkuang" in their archive. very unique maybe...

Wendy said...

That "fruit salad dressing" looks interesting...

embun said...

Ini sengkuang ke?
Is this sengkuang?

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Embun~ Ini sengkuang. Dalam Bahasa Inggeris dipanggil yam bean atau jicama.

Nick Leong said...

Hi Malay-Kadazan girl,

I am glad to find your blog.

Like u, I miss sengkuang and want to plant some in my backyard. i dont know if the weather in adelaide (hallett cove)is suitable until i found ur blog. now i am gonna plant them and hopefully, get some deligious tubers. tks.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Hi Nick,

Good Luck growing sengkuang.
Just make sure you harvest the tubers before the weather drops under 15 degree Celsius consecutively.

Jose said...

Does Kohlrabi taste like Jicama? I've searched your blog but I could not find If you posted how It tastes.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Hi Jose~ Sorry for the late respond. KohlRabi is not as juicy as jicama is. Can't really say it taste like jicama. I have not eaten KohlRabi raw though.