Singkamas or Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus) are hitting the markets in droves these days. The hot dry weather is a perfect time to harvest the tubers that are in the same family as potatoes. Also known as a yam bean, Jicama originated in Mexico and figure significantly in the cuisine of that nation. They spread with the galleons in the 1600â€™s to the Philippines and onto other Southeast Asian countries and China. Although several local articles, books, quotes call this a turnip, I donâ€™t think singkamas and real turnips are closely related, if at all. Turnips are part of the mustard family and the sharp taste differs from the mild taste of singkamas or jicama. The only similarity would be the turnip-like shape of singkamasâ€¦ but otherwise, retailers who erroneously refer to this as â€œturnipsâ€ may want to change their signage. Singkamas have long vine-like tops that can grow up to 15+ feet long as opposed to a â€œheadâ€ of leaves on turnips. The vines are often used to tie up bunches of singkamas that are then put up for sale.
Many find this vegetable to be too bland. I happen to like it a lot. Perhaps another childhood imprint but I like singkamas peeled and eaten (preferably cold) with vinegar and salt. Certainly healthier than potato chips with the same flavor combination! I also like them in salads where they add texture and crunch. Singkamas is said to be very high in vitamin C and because it is so reasonably priced, within the reach of most. A large clump of small (young) singkamas were just PHP15 at the market recently. I donâ€™t like the really large singkamas because they tend to get woody and dry. Jicama are now widely available in the U.S. and those with a taste for home can buy some relatively cheaply in the grocery and pair it with a sharp vinegar and some rock salt to re-create a childhood favorite or common adult snack!