If you usually hustle past the jicama in your market’s produce section, it’s time to learn how to make the most of this mysterious-looking root. Jicama, a brown-skinned, turnip-shaped tuber native to Mexico and South America, has white flesh that’s crisp, juicy, very mild, and almost sweet. A member of the bean family, the plant’s only edible part is its root, as the leaves and seeds contain a mild toxin. The root, however, is a fiber-rich find that’s also full of potassium and vitamin C.
You can find jicama year-round in many supermarkets and in Latin American markets. Look for firm, dry, slightly shiny jicama roots without bruises or shriveled skin. Store whole jicama roots in a dark, cool place, like a cupboard; they’ll last a bit longer there than in the refrigerator. Unpeeled jicama will stay fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks. To prep jicama, first remove all of the skin with a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife, then slice the flesh as desired. Bonus: Jicama doesn’t turn brown or become soggy after cutting like avocados or eggplants.
Crisp jicama makes a refreshing addition to crudité trays and salads, and can sub for cucumber in sushi rolls. Like water chestnuts, jicama will stay crisp in quick-cooked dishes like stir-fries or sautés. Add finely-diced jicama to fresh salsas or julienne it into coleslaws. For an unexpected slaw, combine shredded jicama, shredded carrot, chopped red bell pepper, and fresh cilantro, and season with salt and pepper. Toss with olive oil and lime juice or, for a creamy version, combine with sour cream and mayo. For an easy side salad, combine orange sections, sliced jicama, and cucumber, dress with lemon juice and season with salt; add chile powder, if desired. Or simply make the classic Central American-style snack: Squeeze lemon or lime juice over thinly-sliced jicama and sprinkle lightly with chile powder for a tasty treat that couldn’t be easier.