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TIP OF THE DAY: Jícama

If you hadn’t read the headline, would you be able to name this vegetable?

Botanists might call it Pachyrhizus erosus, but we know it as jícama (HEEK-uh-muh) or alternatively, the Mexican yam or Mexican turnip, although, as it is so often in popular nomenclature, jicama is not related botanically to either the yam or the turnip (except that are tree all root vegetables).

The flowering vine is native to Mexico; it is the tuberous root of the plant that is eaten.

You’ll find it most often in Latin American cuisine, although Spanish traders brought it to the Philippines, from which it was brought to China and other parts of Southeast Asia. It‘s now in popular dishes of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Jícama is white and crunchy, not unlike a water chestnut. The flavor is mild, sweet and starchy—like some apples that aren’t sweet enough. Some people liken the flavor to raw green beans.

 

Jicama: tuberous roots. Photo by Eric | Wikimedia.

 
Jícama’s best use is to add crunch to salads, salsas and slaws, or to join in with other crudités. At 86%-90% water, it’s a hydrating snack on a hot day. (Jícama is high in vitamins A, some Bs, and C, with nice hitd of calcium and phosphorus.)

The jícama at most grocery stores is coated with a thick wax, for extended shelf life. The yellow, papery skin is first peeled with a paring knife, revealing flesh that looks like a potato. It can then be diced into cubes or sliced into matchsticks or batons.

Uncut jícama can be stored at room temperature for a week or so, or refrigerated a bit longer. Once cut, it should be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, where it will last for another week.

 

Jícama fries. Photo courtesy Annaliisa’s
Organic Kitchen. Here’s the recipe.

 

HOW TO SERVE JÍCAMA

Once you’ve peeled a jícama, what do you do with it?

  • Raw. Enjoy itas a snack, like carrots or celery—plain, with salsa or other dip. A classic Mexican preparation is to thinly slice jicama, then sprinkle with lime juice, chili powder and salt. Or, add to fruit salad.
  • Salad. Toss with your favorite ingredients—avocado, carrots, edamame, fennel, jalapeño, onion, mushrooms, etc. Make a luncheon salad by adding chicken, seafood or tofu. Prepare an easy dressing of olive oil, lime juice and cilantro, with a pinch of salt. Mix into coleslaw along with the cabbage. Add to egg salad, tuna/seafood salad, etc., for a sweet crunch.
  • Cooked. Jícama can be steamed, boiled, sautéed or fried. And so long as you don’t overcook it, jícama retains its pleasantly crisp texture (think fresh apple) when cooked.Add to soups and stir frys. Make “jícama fries” by tossing with lemon juice, salt and seasonings.
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    Why not try some jícama fries tonight? Here’s a recipe.

    Save a few slices for your salad!
      




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