Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus, P. tuberosus), pronounced HEE-ka-ma, is native to Central America, where it is also known as Yam Bean or Mexican Turnip. The genus name, Pachyrhizus is derived from the Greek and means “thick root.” The species names erosus means “jagged” and tuberosus, means “tuber.” Our name, jicama, comes from the Nahuatlan Indian xicama, which means “edible storage root.”
Jicama is a member of the Fabaceae (Pea) Family, making it a relative of peanuts and beans. The jicama plant is a vine growing to a length of twenty or more feet. The roots can weigh up to fifty pounds, though those on the market weigh between three to five pounds.
Jicama, a root vegetable, has a high water and low calorie content. According to The Nutrition Almanac by Gayla and John Kirschmann, it is high beta-carotene, B complex, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and potassium. Its sweet flavour comes from the fructo-oligosaccharide also known as inulin. Jicama’s flavor is sweet, similar to water chestnut and many restaurants use it as a less expensive substitute.
Select firm jicama that is heavy for its size. Overly large, or shriveled jicama is likely to be woody and tough. Jicama can be stored whole, unwrapped in the refrigerator for several weeks. Storing it in plastic accelerates mold growth. Once cut, it is best to use it within a day or two.
Slice jicama like potato chips and use it for dips. Jicama can be juiced, grated into a salad, or grated to the size of rice and use it as a rice replacement. In Latin America, it is common to serve peeled jicama, with a squeeze of lemon or lime and a dash of salt.
Jicama Crunch Sticks
With a platter of these in hand, you’ll never miss French fries!
- 1 jicama, peeled and cut into thin strips
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional; not a raw product)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder of your choice
- 1/2 teaspoon Celtic salt
Toss together all ingredients. Makes 2 servings.