Jícama looks like a cross between a potato and a huge turnip. I love eating cold slices as a snack, and so do most Mexicans. Have you noticed the frequency of street eating in Mexico? For every holiday, every evening on the plaza, at every beach, every bus stop, every market, there is someone with a cart selling sliced watermelon, cucumber, pineapple, or jícama — all sprinkled with chile powder and spritzed with lime juice.
While I can’t advocate street eating for us weak-stomached foreigners who have no way of telling if the vegetables have been disinfected, if the knife, cutting board and hands are super clean, we can prepare jícama at home using our favorite method for cleaning and disinfecting produce. And we can use chile powder or not, lime juice or not.
Jícama in the stores can look unappealing sometimes. They can be a little beat up, muddied and oddly shaped, or smooth and clean as a whistle. Look for smooth, light skinned, small jícama. Don’t worry about a little dirt. Just scrub it off and soak the tubers in a disinfectant solution.
The skin pulls off when you grab the end with a paring knife. If it doesn’t want to pull away, as sometimes happens, use a vegetable peeler. Often you can pull off a piece of skin with your fingers, once you get it started.
Use a paring knife to finish cutting out little rootlets or nicks. Then slice, dice or chop.
For an easy snack or an appetizer that is muy mexicano, squeeze some lime juice over cold, sliced jícama, and sprinkle with coarse salt and chile power. Or sauté chopped jícama in a stir-fry as a substitute for water chestnuts. Or sprinkle with cinnamon and a pinch of brown sugar. Or use as a base for spreading guacamole or ceviche. Or add to a fruit salad or vegetable salad. Or just eat it cold, sliced and unadorned.
- Etmology — The name jícama is from the Nahuatl word, xicamatl. Jícama is the name of this native Mexican plant, as well as the name of the edible root. It also goes by the names of yambean and Mexican turnip.
- The tuber can weigh up to twenty kilograms, but you will never see them in the stores this big. Usually they are between one half to one kilo (1-2 pounds) in weight. A half kilo-sized jicama is young and juicy.
- Jícama has a water content of 86-90%, and is high in dietary fiber.