Learning to Love Jicama

24 Nov

jicama

The Jicama root is gaining popularity thanks to chefs like TV’s Bobby Flay. If you’re interested in learning more, here is some basic info on the plant …  

Jicama is a crispy, sweet, edible root that resembles a turnip in physical appearance, although the plants are not related. Jicama has been cultivated in South America for centuries, and the vegetable is quite popular in Mexican cuisine. Jicama has a unique flavor that lends itself well to salads, salsas, and vegetable platters. The roots can sometimes grow to be quite large, although when they exceed the size of two fists, they begin to convert the sugars that give jicama its sweet flavor into starches, making the root somewhat woody to the taste.

Jicama is actually a legume, and it grows on vines that may reach 20 feet (six meters) in length. The vines tend to hug the ground, terminating in tubers that may grow up to 50 pounds (22 kilograms) in size, although the majority of jicama roots sent to market are approximately three to four pounds (1.3-2 kilograms) in weight. Before eating, the coarse brown outer layer of the jicama should be peeled to reveal the white inside.

When choosing jicama at the store, look for medium sized, firm tubers with dry roots. Do not purchase jicama that has wet or soft spots, which may indicate rot, and don’t be drawn to overlarge examples of the tuber, because they may not be as flavorful. Jicama will keep under refrigeration for up to two weeks.

Jicama is excellent raw and is sometimes eaten plain. It can also be used as a substitute for water chestnut in Chinese dishes, in which case it should be thrown in right before serving. Jicama also appears in stews, juiced drinks, stuffings, and a variety of other recipes. In addition to having a unique flavor and texture, jicama takes flavor well, making it well suited to culinary experimentation. Jicama is a great source of vitamin c and is fat free—making it a superb on-the-go snack.

Jicama grows best in warm, dry climates. It can be planted and grown year round, although tubers form better during the winter time. Jicama plants sprouted in the late spring tend to produce extremely robust tubers by the winter, while jicama planted in the summer produces the most flavorful tubers, although they are typically somewhat smaller. Jicama prefers full sun and moderate rainfall, and it is subject to frost damage, making it a poor choice for northern climates. In addition, jicama produces a natural insecticide in the above ground vine, meaning that the plant protects itself from harmful pests.

Jicama Salad

  • 1 large jicama
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 red pepper, cut into very thin matchstick slices
  • 1/2 cup radishes, shredded
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into very thin matchstick slices
  • juice from three limes
  • 1 Tbsp. lime zest
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely minced
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to peel the jicama. Shred finely using a box grater or the shredding blade of a food processor. Place shredded jicama, carrots, red pepper, radishes, and cucumber in a large salad bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, lime zest, rice vinegar, ancho chili powder, honey and canola oil. Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the jicama salad. All the flavors to marinate for about 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Serves 6.

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