Crunchy & Cool: Jicama

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Jicama is one cool customer. It hides out with the other vegetables, looking totally plain and unremarkable. But peel away its papery skin and get it in a salad, and suddenly this crunchy sweet tuber takes on a whole new dimension.

Let’s start with how to pronounce its name. There are two ways, really: “HICK-ah-mah” or “HEE-kah-mah.” Both are correct. Both are equally fun to say. You might also see this vegetable called “yam bean,” “Mexican yam,” or “Mexican turnip.”

Jicama is the edible tuberous root of a vine native to Mexico. They can grow to enormous proportions (the heaviest ever recorded was 50 pounds!), but the jicama that we typically find at the grocery store are roughly the size of baseballs. Buy jicama roots that feel firm with no soft spots and have smooth, dry skin. Store them loose in the crisper drawer, where they should keep for several weeks.

The thin papery skin on the outside needs to be peeled away, but the rest of the jicama is completely edible. The interior is milky white with a crisp, watery texture similar to apples. They taste very mild and slightly sweet.

On a really hot summer day, a few slices of raw jicama straight from the fridge are heavenly. You can dip them in lime juice and sprinkle them with salt or other seasonings for an even better treat. Beyond this, try adding sliced jicama to salads and tacos for some crunch or dice it up for salsas. In a stir-fry, think of using jicama the way you might use water chestnut; add it to the pan at the very end of cooking so that it warms but doesn’t lose its great texture.

Check out these recipes for more ideas on using jicama:

Wakame, Cucumber, and Jicama SaladSteamed Pork and Jicama Dumplings from GourmetJicama Tuna Tacos from The Food NetworkJicama Sticks with Chili-Lime Dip from Martha StewartThai-Style Jicama Salad from Sunset Magazine

How do you like to use jicama?