Helping Yourself to Jicama

Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus), also known as Mexican turnip, Mexican yam, Mexican potato, Mexican yam bean, ahipa, saa got, Chinese turnip, lo bok, and the Chinese potato, belongs to the family of Fabaceae, along with common beans (green snap beanspinto beansheirloom beansGreat Northern beansblack turtle beans, kidney beans, and navy beans), edible-pod and mature peasfava beansblack-eyed peas, adzuki beanslima beanspeanutschickpeas, carob, and licorice. The family also includes broom, gorse, and kudzu.

Jicama originated in Mexico, Central and South America where it was cultivated by all major Mesoamerican civilizations.

The Mayans mention jicama in the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, in which a couple of metaphors are made about it, one of which compares the tuberoot to the calf of a woman’s leg and peeling the jicama with pulling up a skirt.

In his Spanish-Nahuatl dictionary (the first in the New World, published in 1571), Franciscan priest Alonso de Medina wrote that jicama was called xicamatl by the Aztecs, and defined it as a “certain root that may be eaten raw and is very sweet.”

The Spanish introduced jicama to the Philippines in the 17th century and from there to Southeast Asia and China. Jicama was also used as a staple on board ships because it stored well, could be eaten raw, and was also thirst quenching.

Today, jicama is most popular in Mexico, South China, and in the U.S.

Jicama can:

  1. Boost your immune system. A 100-gram serving of jicama provides you with 34% of daily value of vitamin C, which acts as an antihistamine, boosts your immune function, reduces inflammation, and reduces symptoms of asthma, the common cold, and flu.
  2. Promote healthy eyes and skin. Vitamin C in jicama is also good for eyes and skin.
  3. Lower cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels are a risk factor for many serious health conditions such as heart attack and hypertension. Jicama is an extremely rich source of soluble fiber, which aids in reducing cholesterol levels and stabilizing blood sugar levels. A 100-gram serving of jicama provides 13% of your daily value of soluble fiber.
  4. Promote healthy weight. A 100-gram of raw jicama serving contains only 35 calories, making it an excellent choice for maintaining a healthy weight.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Raw Jicama

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin C

20.2 mg

34%

fiber

4.9 g

20%

potassium

150 mg

4%

choline

13.6 mg

3.2%

magnesium

12 mg

3%

folate

12 µg

3%

carbohydrates

8.8 g

3%

iron

0.6 mg

3%

manganese

0.1 mg

3%

Calories

38

2%

phosphorus

18 mg

2%

copper

0.048 mg

2%

vitamin B6

0.042 mg

2%

riboflavin

0.029 mg

2%

calcium

12 mg

1%

protein

0.7 g

1%

niacin

0.2 mg

1%

zinc

0.2 mg

1%

pantothenic acid

0.1 mg

1%

thiamine

0.02 mg

1%

vitamin K

0.3 µg

0.375%

sodium

4 mg

0.17%

fat

0.1 g

0.15%

cholesterol

0 mg

0%

Although jicama is grown in Texas, most of what is sold in the U.S. and Canada is imported from Mexico and South America. Jicama is available in the U.S. year-round, but is at its peak from October through June. You can find it in the fresh produce section of your supermarket, usually alongside other exotic tubers like taro and yucca roots.

When purchasing jicama, look for a smooth, dry, firm, brown skin with no cracks or insect damage. Choose roots that don’t have cracks, splits, bruises or blemishes. The flesh should be crisp and white, with either a watery or milky juice.  Do not purchase jicama that has wet or soft spots, which may indicate rot, and don’t be drawn to overlarge examples of the tuber, because they may not be as flavorful.

Jicama is best stored in a cool, dark, dry place, between 12°C and 16°C (53°F and 60°F). A fresh root stored at an appropriate temperature will keep for a month or two. You can place it in a bag and store it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

You can eat jicama raw, sautéed, or stir fried. Raw jicama tastes crisp, sweet, and nutty, similar to a pear or an apple, or a cross between an apple and a potato.  To use jicama in a dish, make sure no stems are attached. Wash and peel each root, revealing its white flesh. You can then cube, dice, or slice jicama into thin, circular sections.  It is slow to discolor when exposed to the open air. Because of this, raw jicama is often used as on raw vegetable platters. Jicama pairs well with many different spices, so consider adding it to salsas or dusting it with a blend of chili pepper, salt, and lime juice and serving it raw.

When you cook jicama, it tends to take on the flavors of the ingredients that it is being combined with. Therefore, jicama is a nice complement to various stir-fry dishes because it blends well with many vegetables and seasonings. You can use jicama as an alternative to water chestnuts.

Jicama is usually measured in either cups or individual roots (one medium-sized root yields about five cups of diced jicama).

The best replacements for jicama are apples, pears, or water chestnuts, each of which has flesh that is crunchy, white, mild and slightly sweet. You might also consider substituting a turnip, depending on the dish.

As an accompaniment to dips and salsas, cut jicama into sticks. For fruit salads such as the western Mexican pico de gallo, it should be cut into cubes. It is ideal for crudite trays because it does not discolor, even after a few hours on the buffet table. You can marinate jicama and serve it with olives on a relish tray, and you can add leftover sticks of jicama to a sauté of other vegetables, such as carrots and green beans. You can stem or microwave jicama on its own, or add it raw or cubed to potato salad. To “Mexicanize” a potato salad as a side dish with fajitas, add some cubed jicama, cilantro. and black beans. Make a salad with grapefruit sections, either pink or white, along with orange and tangerine sections, over spinach or baby greens and some crunchy vegetables like kohlrabicelery, sweet onions, or jicama. Add a creamy avocado dressing or one with a hint of fruity sweetness.


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this blog to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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