If you usually hustle past the jicama in your market’s produce section, it’s time to learn how to make the most of this mysterious-looking root. Jicama, a brown-skinned, turnip-shaped tuber native to Mexico and South America, has white flesh that’s crisp, juicy, very mild, and almost sweet. A member of the bean family, the plant’s only edible part is its root, as the leaves and seeds contain a mild toxin. The root, however, is a fiber-rich find that’s also full of potassium and vitamin C.
When you find it in your farmer’s markets look for firm, dry, slightly shiny jicama roots without bruises or shriveled skin. Store whole jicama roots in a dark, cool place, like a cupboard; they’ll last a bit longer there than in the refrigerator. Unpeeled jicama will stay fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks.
To prep jicama, first remove all of the skin with a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife, then slice the flesh as desired. Bonus: Jicama doesn’t turn brown or become soggy after cutting like avocados or eggplants.
Crisp jicama makes a refreshing addition to crudité trays and salads, and can sub for cucumber in sushi rolls. Like water chestnuts, jicama will stay crisp in quick-cooked dishes like stir-fries or sautés.
Jicama is underused in cooking — a real shame, since it’s such a wonderful root vegetable with a crunch, crispy texture. This salad (which is more akin to a “slaw”) highlights the best of the jicama’s characteristics and makes a nice side for any fajita or grilled meat.
JICAMA SALAD RECIPE
- 1 large jicama (about 1 ½ pounds), peeled and coarsely shredded
- 2 large carrots, coarsely shredded
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red or yellow pepper, julienned
- 1 lime, zested
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon ground pure ancho chile
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, combine the jicama, carrots, onion, and pepper. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the lime zest, juice, oil, honey, and chile. Pour over the vegetables and toss. Add the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving.
Note: If you want to go with a more fun and varied texture, add a chopped avocado, cut slices of an orange, or even a couple of chopped tomatoes just before tossing.