The food industry, like other American industries, has trends and jicama is one of them. Chefs are using this root vegetable in hot and cold dishes. Food magazines are publishing all sorts of jicama recipes and hundreds more are on the Internet. Why is jicama so popular?
Some food experts think its growing popularity is due to the growing Hispanic population. Another reason may be that chefs are always looking for something new. But health-conscious consumers may be force behind the trend. Jicama is high in fiber and water (it’s 90% water) and low in calories. In fact, a cup of jicama contains only 45 calories, according to the USDA.
“Betty Crocker’s Southwest Cooking” defines jicama as a root in the turnip family. Though jicama is related to “the sharp tasting turnip,” the cook book says, it is “so mild in flavor that, when eaten raw, it is usually sprinkled with lemon or lime juice and chile powder.” A few grocery stores carry peeled jicama, but this product is not available nation-wide.
I was in a San Francisco restaurant when I tasted jicama for the first time and it tasted like apple. My salad appetizer — field greens, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and match-stick slices of jicama — was dressed with a basic oil and vinegar dressing. The salad was simple, elegant, and unbelievably delicious.
Though it is often called the Mexican potato, jicama does not darken like a potato when peeled. Small jicama are sweeter than large ones. Choose a firm, un-bruised jicama and leave the wizened ones behind. Jicama is hard so be careful when you peel it. Slice it in half first and remove the skin with a vegetable peeler. You may cut the jicama by hand or in a food processor. Sweet and sour come together in my recipe for Jicama-Carrot Salad with Dried Cherries.
1 small jicama
small head of Boston lettuce (also called butter lettuce)
1/2 cup shredded carrots (from bag)
2 scallions (white and green parts), diced with kitchen shears
1/3 cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (country style)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (one lemon)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon salt-free lemon and pepper seasoning
Put salad dressing ingredients in a small jar, shake until combined and set aside. Peel jicama. Cut into match-stick slices or slice with a food processor. Tear lettuce into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Add carrots, scallions, dried cherries, and salad dressing. Toss gently. Makes 4 servings. Note: Lemon juice wilts lettuce quickly so make this salad just before you are going to eat it.