Everything You Wanted To Know (or Not) About: Jicama

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No, that's not a petrified boob....

...it's called Jicama. Pronounced, "hick-come-ah." Also known as "Chinese Potato," "Mexican Potato," "yam bean," "saa got," and "lo bok."

It's actually considered a legume, from the bean family believe it or not.

It looks like a huge tan turnip, but tastes a lot like a waterchestnut. If you don't know what that is, it tastes like a starchier pear or apple. The skin is thin but rough and needs to be peeled before eating. The flesh inside is bright white, super crispy, and contains a lot of moisture. The texture tastes and feels a lot like an under ripe pear. Only the this root is edible; the rest of the plant is actually quite toxic to humans, so much so that the seeds of the plant are used for insecticides! So if you're planning to grow your own jicama, discard the leafy parts, vines and seeds and stick with just consuming the root!

It's a staple vegetable in Latin American and Mexican cooking. It's extremely low calorie, 0 fat, and very high in Vitamin C. It can be cooked or served raw. Most dishes use it in stirfry and salads or as a part of a crudite (raw vegetable) platter. Jicama made its way to Asia where it's now a popular ingredient and most often served as a part of salads or featured in raw fruit bars.

Popular preparations for jicama include slicing and simply adding lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper, and spicy chili powder on top; cut up into thin strips (julienne style) and added to salads for needed crunch; cut into chunks and thrown into soups; or grated and made into slaw. Jicama is a great ingredient to work with because it won't oxidize as quickly as a potato or pear or apple; you don't need the acid from lemon or lime to keep it's white color. And proper storage in your fridge (wrapped, plastic bag) will let you keep your jicama for up to 2 months!

Here's a great recipe using jicama in a salad.

Mixed Greens with Jicama, Orange, and Citrus Vinaigrette
1 bag mixed greens, washed and spun dry
1 jicama root
1 large or 2 small oranges
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
small pinch chili powder
toasted slivered almonds (optional)
crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Place greens in a large bowl.

Peel the jicama and cut into 1/4 inch thick matchsticks. They don't have to be perfect, but try to get them all around the same size. Place on top of the greens. Zest one of the oranges and set aside. Take each orange and using a very sharp knife, cut around the globe removing the rhind. Discard the rhind. Then using a sharp knife, carefully cut out segments of the orange, cutting in between the membrane. Place the segments right on top of the jicama and greens. Then squeeze the rest of the oranges so the juice comes out into a small bowl for your vinaigrette. Add the orange zest in with the orange juice you just squeezed out and set aside. Discard the rest of the orange. Add the red onion to the salad mixture as well, and season the whole salad with a good pinch of sea salt and pepper to taste.

Now make the vinaigrette. Add the garlic, Dijon mustard, and chili powder to the orange juice and zest. Whisk in the olive oil until well combined (or emulsified). The musard will help thicken the vinaigrette. Pour the vinaigrette on top of the salad and give it a gentle toss. Top with the slivered almonds and crumbled feta if using and serve immediately.

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