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Jicama

Jicama

A sweet root vegetable first cultivated by the Aztecs, jicama (HICK-uh-muh) adds a mild flavor and exotic crunch to salads, dips and raw veggie platters.

Nutritional Highlights

  • This tuber is known for its versatility. About 2/3 cup of chopped raw jicama delivers 28 percent of your Daily Value of vitamin C, making it an excellent source of a nutrient that helps protect cells from oxidation.
  • Like most veggies, jicama is low in sodium and contains no fat. And if that weren't exciting enough, 2/3 cup of this root contains just 35 calories, which is perfect if you want to make a delicious meal without worrying about your waistline.

History

Jicama originated in Central America. In his Spanish-Nahuatl lexicon (the New World's first dictionary, published in 1571), Franciscan priest Alonso de Medina summed up jicama nicely: Called xicamatl by the Aztecs, the tuber is a "certain root that may be eaten raw and is very sweet." Since that time, jicama has become a popular addition to many U.S. and Latin American dishes.

Varieties

There is one primary kind of this root vegetable, called plain old "jicama." It's a small, spherical tuber with brown skin and white flesh. Jicama roots also generate long green vines, but these are poisonous and therefore inedible. Two similar roots, called goitenyo and ahipa, resemble jicama in taste and texture but are more elongated in shape and typically harder to find in stores.

When is Jicama in Season?

Jicama is available all year long. You can find it in the fresh produce section of your supermarket, usually alongside other exotic tubers like taro and yucca roots.

How to Choose Jicama

The best jicama has dry, brown skin and a firm feel, much like a russet potato. Choose roots that don't have cracks, splits, bruises or blemishes.

How to Store Jicama

This tuber is best stored in a cool, dark place. You can place it in a plastic bag and store it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. However, you'll need to make sure the fridge isn't too cold. If it has a temperature below 55°F or so, you may do better to store jicama in a cabinet or pantry, since frosty temps are bad for this tuber.

How to Cook with Jicama

Jicama can be eaten raw, sautéed or stir fried. Its crisp flesh is sweet, making it taste like a mild red apple. To use jicama in a dish, make sure no stems are attached. Wash and peel each root, revealing its white flesh. Jicama can then be cubed, diced or sliced into thin, circular sections. Mix these pieces into salads or add them to a fresh veggie platter. Jicama pairs well with many different spices, so consider adding it to salsas or dusting it with a blend of chili pepper, salt and lime juice and serving it raw.

Key Measurements

Jicama is usually measured in either cups or individual roots (one medium-sized root yields about five cups of diced jicama).

Substitutions

The best replacements for jicama are apples, pears or water chestnuts, each of which has flesh that is crunchy, white, mild and slightly sweet. You might also consider substituting a turnip, depending on the dish.

Jicama in Recipes

For a burst of crisp, fresh flavor, this six-ingredient Jicama-Spinach Salad is hard to top. Or rather, it's easy to top...with jicama. Use a heart-shaped cutter to make jicama slices that show everyone that this is a salad made with loving care.

A  Healthified Hummus-Style White Bean Dip makes a perfect topping for pita chips - and it contains 80 percent fewer calories than the original recipe!

Finally, mix up a holiday meal by tossing together this colorful, sweet salad of Spiced Mixed Greens with Fruit. Citrus makes it zesty, while star-shaped jicama slices give it a little added panache.

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