To add a flavorful crunch to your next salad, consider tossing in some jicama. Native to Mexico and Central and South America, jicama is a root vegetable that is low in calories and full of nutrients. Although jicama is gaining popularity in the United States, some cooks are still unfamiliar with how to select and use this flavorful and nutritious tuber.
Jicama Flavor and Texture
Although jicama looks like a potato, the flesh of this starchy vegetable has a lightly sweet and nutty flavor. The texture of jicama is crunchy and slightly moist, much like a crisp apple. The jicama peel is edible, but because of its tough, fibrous texture, it is usually discarded. If you come across an entire jicama plant, do not eat any of the above-ground portion; the stem, leaves, flowers and seed pods are poisonous.
Ways to Use Jicama
The most common way to use jicama is as a raw garnish or main salad ingredient. You can also eat raw jicama as a snack as you would carrots or radishes. Jicama also works well in stir-fries. To retain its crunchy texture, wait until the last three to five minutes of cooking to add the jicama. Jicama can also be baked, fried or mashed as an alternative to potatoes.
Choosing a Jicama
Because a poor quality jicama has poor flavor, choose the best one from your grocer's produce section. To select the best jicama, take the time to examine it thoroughly. The root should be firm and feel heavy for its size. The skin should have a slight luster to it and not show any sign of mold, bruises or cracking. Although it may be tempting to get the biggest jicama available, the flavor and texture will be better if you choose medium-size roots that weigh less than 4 pounds. Jicama can be stored in the refrigerator, but the sweetness will diminish the longer you keep it.
Jicama Calories and Nutrition
A half-cup serving of jicama contains only 25 calories and no fat or cholesterol. In addition to being low in calories, a half-cup serving of raw jicama provides 20 percent of your daily vitamin C and 3 grams of dietary fiber. Although jicama tastes sweet, it has only 1 gram of sugar per half-cup portion.
Based in Portland, Ore., Tammie Painter has been writing garden, fitness, science and travel articles since 2008. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as "Herb Companion" and "Northwest Travel" and she is the author of six books. Painter earned her Bachelor of Science in biology from Portland State University.