I grew up in Houston, where summers are stifling hot and humid. I never understood the proliferation of heavy fried foods in that heat, but I always appreciated the watermelon, the tomatoes, and the jicama. It’s not that I ate jicama all of the time. In fact, I think I tried it for the first time as an adult. But it was love at first bite.
Now, I must note that when I posted a photo of unpeeled jicama on my Facebook page recently, it was my cousin from Pennsylvania and a friend from Virginia who guessed its identity correctly! So maybe I’ve just been overlooking jicama in the stores and restaurants around here. The important thing is, I recently rediscovered it, and the taste carried me home to Houston, where Mexican and Central American influences are deeply woven into the cuisine. This is my soul food.
Pronounced ‘HIH-ka-ma,’ it is a large root vegetable with a thin, fibrous brown skin and white, crunchy, mildly sweet flesh. It is popular in Mexico and other Latin American cuisines, as well as Southeast Asia. It is sometimes called “Mexican turnip” or “yam bean.”
Jicama can be bought year-round in many supermarkets in the U.S., and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. But be careful to not keep it around too long, as the sugar will convert to starch and take that yummy sweetness along with it. Jicama is a good source of vitamin C (about 26 mg in 1 cup) and an excellent source of fiber (6 g per cup).
Jicama is often eaten raw, stirred into salads and made into dips, or it can also be cooked and put into stir-fry. It absorbs the flavors of other ingredients and provides a satisfying crunch to any dish, even when cooked (similar to water chestnuts). I’ll admit I have not tried cooked jicama, but look forward to it.
Today, I’d like to share a recipe that I prepared for a party recently (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Jicama-Corn-Salad/). The recipe also calls for mango, an equal player with jicama and corn here. I agree with the posted comments that this would make a huge amount of food. So I halved it and still had a solid 10 cups of salad for the party. I also added chile powder, enough to give it flavor but very little heat– delicious! I hope you’ll try it and enjoy it as much as I did!