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Jicama: Homely But Heavenly

Cate Wines By Cate Wines on
Badge: Author | Level: 2 | Food & Drink Expertise:
Raw Heavenly Diabetes Drinks Food

It's scientific name is Pachyrhizus erosus. Just looking at that name is enough to put some people off. Could that translate to "sexy elephant" or "the elephant causes erosion?" Of course not! Jicama (pronounced hic-ah-ma) is a Latin American offering to the vegetable markets of the world. It's a hardy root vegetable and stores well enough to be shipped around the world. Other names for jicama are Mexican sweet potato, Chinese potato and lo bok.

Jicama is a homely--no, downright ugly--vegetable. Wrapped in a tough, fibrous, inedible brown skin and deformed by an irregular and often lumpy shape, it feels heavier than it looks. It can be described as resembling a very large, brown radish. That's because the jicama we eat is only the root of the plant. Any part of the plant above ground is poisonous, but the root is almost pure white, sweet and very crunchy. The texture is that of a water chestnut and it retains the crispness even when cooked. A popular way to eat jicama is raw. It tastes more like a fruit to me; it reminds me of a cross between a pear and a potato. I especially appreciate the light sweetness in the taste. It's a wonderful addition to either fruit or vegetable trays.

Jicama can be cooked in several different ways. It's lovely stir-fried or sauteed. It combines well with shrimp, pork or chicken in a stir fry with a variety of other vegetables such as peas, peppers, onions, mushrooms and bean sprouts.

Served steamed, mashed, baked or boiled, jicama is delicious. The only way I haven't tried it is in a crock pot recipe. When cooked, jicama takes on a bit of the flavor of whatever herbs, seasonings or sauces in which it is cooked.

The peel must be removed before eating, but even without the peel, this unusual vegetable contains healthy amounts of

Vitamin C, calcium and potassium. One serving has about 2.5 grams of fiber. It's fat-free and low in starch and sodium. One cup of roughly chopped or julienned jicama is 45-50 calories.

This member of the morning-glory family comes in two varieties: agua or watery and leche or milky, depending on the liquid produced by the root. If you are cautious about trying new foods, I recommend the agua, matched up with fruit. My favorite way to eat jicama is on a fruit plate with strawberries, pineapple and a sweet raspberry yogurt dressing for dipping.