Some vegetables are the unsung heroes. They don’t shine. They don’t get paraded around during their peak season. They just humbly exist. I like to think of the jicama, (pronounced heek-ah-mah), or Mexican yam bean as just that kind of vegetable. If you’re fortunate to find one in your local grocery store, it may be in that one section, with those other weird, hairy, pointy or misshapen produce we’re often unsure what to do with. But then, that is the beauty and allure of the jicama. It exists among the apples and grapes, waiting for its time when someone will come along, charmed by its flavor, and knowingly choose it over the pears or the bananas and bring it home to enjoy. To me, the jicama resonates in flavor more as a fruit than a root vegetable and, despite typically seeing it doused in lime juice and chili powder, I like to enjoy its refreshing and crisp sweetness in fruit salads.
If you’ve never enjoyed a jicama, you’re in for a treat. It has quite the personality. Captivating like the Mona Lisa, with its tan, nondescript exterior, a chilled and peeled jicama reveals a sturdy, white flesh with a sweetness akin to a firm pear or raw sugar cane. It has also been described as being similar in texture to a potato or water chestnut. Make no mistake, the jicama commands a place in this Year of the Vegetable If you’re still not convinced, here are three good reasons why you should consider it:
- Peeled jicama does not brown or oxidize and stores well refrigerated for 1-2 weeks, which makes it the ideal veggie to cut up and package for weekday snacks.
- Jicama can be used in either sweet or savory recipes and can be eaten raw or cooked–Seriously, how much more versatility can you ask for in a vegetable? The only thing you have an excuse throwing away is the peel which is quite fibrous and toxic, so don’t eat that.
- Jicama has many nutritional benefits. With only 49 calories per cup, jicama is a great low-calorie food and an excellent source of fiber, potassium and Vitamin C.
So the next time you’re feeling adventurous and perusing the grocery aisle for a little inspiration, don’t overlook the jicama. There’s a whole tantalizing world that awaits you…
Jicama & Citrus Salad
1 small jicama
2 small oranges
2 medium ruby red grapefruit
1 bunch fresh mint
4 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Sourcing, selecting and storing the jicama requires a little bit of knowledge, but once you’ve got these few tidbits under your belt, all that’s left is for you to enjoy eating it. Jicama can be found in most typical grocery stores, often located near the fresh ginger. It is usually sold by the pound. I did a quick price comparison at two locations in my area and, at the time of this post, found it ranged from .79/pound at a small Asian grocer to $1.19/pound at a larger standard grocer. It pays to shop around.
Jicama have a rough and fibrous light yellow to tan skin. Some are relatively smooth with a little bit of scaliness. Others may have a few bumps or dimples. If you can, purchase small to medium sized jicama with the least amount of blemish on its exterior. Also, avoid any jicama that are tinged with green mold on the root ends.
When left unpeeled, jicama can be stored much like potatoes, in a cool, dry, dark place for up to a month. After they’ve been peeled and refrigerated, if you don’t manage to eat them before then, they will keep between 1-2 weeks. I ate two small jicama in two days. Addictive, really.
Remove the top and bottom of the jicama with a knife. If the jicama has a thicker skin, use a small paring knife to slice the skin away from top to bottom. If the skin is thinner, you can use a vegetable peeler, peeling from the top to bottom to cut through any outer fibers. To make things more manageable, cut jicama into two halves as you would an onion. Working with the flat cut side down, slice jicama, lengthwise, into 1/2 inch slabs. Cut in half again so you end up with half-moon wedges. Set aside.
Using a small paring knife, remove the top and bottom of each citrus. Remove the peel with your knife, from top to bottom, and slice citrus into 1/4 inch rounds.
In a small bowl, blend honey with apple cider vinegar until it dissolves and becomes a light syrup.
On a platter, layer alternating slices of jicama, grapefruit, orange and mint leaves. Drizzle with honey vinegar. Can be served room temperature or chilled.