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Jicama

Jicama is a sweet and crisp turnip like vegetable that is edible and a common ingredient in the Mexican cuisine. Though this sweet vegetable looks like turnip, it does not belong to the same family; in fact it belongs to the legume or bean family. Jicama is known by other names as well such as Mexican potato, Mexican yam bean, ahipa, saa got, Chinese turnip, lo bok, and also Chinese potato. This tubular edible vegetable is native to South America and is generally added to Mexican jicama dishes such as salads, salsas and even vegetable platters. The brown coarse skin of the vegetable needs to be peeled before the white fleshy part of jicama can be used for cooking.

 

Jicama that grows to size of 7-8 inches is ideal for culinary use and a vegetable this size generally weighs around 1.3 to 2 kilograms. If it grows beyond this size, the sweet flavor turns to starch and starts tasting woody, which is not edible and cannot be used for culinary purpose.  There are two types of jicama – ‘agua’, the water type and ‘leche’, the milk juice variety. Some popular jicama recipes are Beef, Snow Pea and Jicama Salad, Jicama Shiitake and Scallop Stir-Fry, Grilled Jicama, etc. If one is looking for a low in starch and calorie option, then the answer is jicama.

 


History of Jicama and Jicama Recipes
Jicama is a tubular vegetable that grows underground. There is no record of when the vegetable was originally cultivated; however, this vegetable is native to Mexico and South American countries. The vine that can grow up to 20 ft is now cultivated in Central America and also Southeast Asian countries. The dust brown colored jicama tends to grow huge and weigh even 50 pounds; however, a vegetable this big is not ideal for eating. Today, the delectable jicama recipes are enjoyed by people in most parts of the world.

 


Culinary Uses of Jicama
Jicama is a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine; however, it is now used in many other cuisines such as Southeast Asian, China and Central America. This vegetable tastes great when made into a salad, sautéed with certain spices, added to soups, combined with fresh fruits, made into fruit bars, and also cooked along with other ingredients. This closest cousin to potato can also be eaten raw or with a squeeze of lime and a little fiery chili powder. In fact, jicama’s taste gets enhanced when it is combined with certain ingredients such as cilantro, chili powder, red onion, salsa, sesame oil, ginger, lime lemon, oranges, soy sauce and grilled fish. When cooked with other vegetables, this vegetable tends to take on the flavor of the accompanying ingredients. Another popular jicama recipe involves cutting the vegetable into thin wedges and serving them dipped in salsa. Finally, stir frying along with certain other vegetables is another way to cook jicama.

 


Popular Jicama Recipes of Various Cuisines
Jicama is native to Mexico and South American countries. As mentioned earlier, this vegetable can be cooked in many ways; however, salads are most common. Some popular jicama recipes are –

  • Ensalade De Jicama – This wonderful salad is prepared with peeled and cubed jicama, sliced cucumber, and peeled and cubed orange. All these vegetables are put into a bowl and are then spiced with a little lemon juice, salt and chili powder. All ingredients are tossed before serving. An extra dose of chili powder can be added, if desired.
  • Jicama Apple Dessert – This delicious dessert is made with sliced apples and jicama. The slices are placed in a baking dish to which other ingredients such as apple juice, sugar and nutmeg are added and combined well. Brown sugar and Bisquick too are then added, topped with crumbled butter. If desired, this prepared dish can be topped with nuts. The dish is then placed in an oven to bake the ingredients at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes.
  • Jicama Salad – The ingredients that go into this delicious Mexican salad are cubed jicama, peeled and sliced oranges, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, sour cream/yogurt, lime juice, olive oil and salt. All ingredients except lime juice, oil, salt and sour cream are mixed together and chilled for about 4-6 hours. Once chilled, the excess liquid is drained out and the other ingredients such as lime juice, olive oil, sour cream and salt are added and mixed well to prepare the salad.
  • Jicama Pico De Gallo – This is another salad that is a popular Latin American jicama recipe. This dish is made with raw diced jicama, seeded and slivered green bell pepper, sliced onion, , diced cucumber, white or red wine vinegar, olive oil, crumbled oregano, salt and pepper. All ingredients are mixed well and tossed with salt and pepper.
  • Jicama Asian Pear Salad – This coleslaw is a European dish that is made with jicama and Asian pears. Other ingredients that add flavor to this accompaniment are mayonnaise, sour cream, honey, lemon juice, chopped chives, sesame oil, salt and pepper. All ingredients are mixed well and tossed with salt and pepper.


 

Nutritive Value of Jicama
Jicama is very high in water content, which is almost 86-90% and is also high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary fiber. However, this vegetable is low in proteins and lipids. This perennial vegetable is not only low in fat, but low in sodium as well. The sweetness of this root vegetable is a result of the prebiotic called oligofructose inulin and because of this, though sweet in taste, it is safe for diabetic people to eat jicama.


 

Jicama Trivia
Jicama plant as such is very poisonous, while the only edible part is the tubular root. The plant contains a toxic substance called rotenone, which is used for poisoning insects and fish.

The right temperature to store jicama is around 53 degrees to 60 degrees F. At this temperature, the roots can keep for one to two months. Very cold temperatures can damage the vegetable.

Jicama is considered as one of the four elements that are used for the “festival of dead”, which is celebrated by Mexicans on 1st of November every year. The other three elements are tangerines (from eastern Asia), sugarcane (from southern Asia) and peanuts (from Bolivia). During this festival, “jicama dolls” are prepared from paper.