This one goes out to my culinarily adventurous friend Alberto…
Jicama. Surprisingly few people have explored this juicy, crispy tuber that is so popular in Mexico, Central and South America and the Orient, since the Spaniards carried it to the Philippines as one of the spoils of the conquest of Mexico. It remains quite popular in Oriental cuisine as an economical substitute for water chestnuts, since it has a pleasing quality of absorbing flavors and retains its crispy crunch in stir fries and the like.
You may have tried it on a trip to Mexico while wandering the streets, in an irresistable fruit cocktail or on its own, liberally doused with lime juice and chile powder. It discolors slowly, making it a great addition to relish platters even in the comparatively culinarily conservative U.S.A., where aficionados think the flavor is a cross between a crisp apple and a crisper pear… or an apple and a potato if the tuber is older and starchier.
It’s high in vitamin C and fiber, low in sodium and has zero fat… so it SHOULD become a staple on your table as it is in so many Mexican homes. Choose a tuber that feels heavy for its size, with a root that doesn’t look too dried out. Mexican cooks in jicama country won’t take it home from the market unless it has fresh leaves sprouting from the top, but most of us aren’t that lucky.
Try it peeled and cubed in a salad with similarly cubed cantaloupe and honeydew dressed with lime and honey (add a good grind of fresh black pepper, what the heck!); chop it and make a fruity salsa with mango, red onion and serrano pepper… or try this delicious, refreshing salad from Jalisco, known as Picardía:
Cube a small jicama in 1/2″ dice
Seed and devein one or two small fresh serrano chiles
Chop a good handful of fresh mint
Mix together and dress with fresh lime juice and a drizzle of honey if the jicama isn’t sweet enough. Chill well and serve in pretty butter lettuce leaf cups and really cut the heat of a summer day!
However you enjoy your jicama, try it in another recipe, fresh or cooked and you’ll be glad you got to know this Mexican delight!