A native of Mexico and South America, jicama (HEE-kah-ma) is a large bulbous root with a brownish skin and a crunchy white interior. Sometimes referred to as “yam bean root” or “Mexican potato,” this root has a mildly sweet taste, and its texture resembles a crispy, just-picked apple.
For cooks, jicama is a gift of ease and versatility. Just peel its paper-thin skin, and it’s pretty much ready to eat. It makes a great addition to a platter of raw vegetables, can be shredded for slaws, or cubed and tossed with fruit. Toss raw jicama strips with cumin, chili powder and lime juice for a Mexican-style cocktail snack. Briefly cooked, it retains a texture similar to water chestnuts, making it a great addition to Asian-style stir-fries. In fact, there’s not much you can’t do it with it—the versatile jicama can be baked, boiled, steamed or grilled.
Jicama can be a boon for those on a diet. One cup of raw slices has only about 45 calories, and its crunch packs a satisfying punch. It’s high in fiber, and it’s a great source of vitamin C—just one cup provides 40 percent of the daily requirement. Jicama is available year-round. Buy small ones if you can (1 to 2 pounds), and select those that feel heavy for their size. Store in the crisper section of your fridge for up to three weeks. Put slices or “sticks” in water to prevent them from drying out.
By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.