Jicama (pronounced with an ‘h’ not a ‘j’) might be another one of those vegetables that has not yet made it to your grocery cart. Jicama may also be referred to as Mexican potato, Mexican turnip, or yam bean. This bulbous root is a member of the bean/pea family Pachyrhizus erosus, that grows underground from a vine that can reach a height of 13 feet or more if given good support. The largest jicama on record reached 51 pounds, though when you shop, you will want to look for one in the two-to-three-pound range.
Jicama is believed to have originated in the Andes Mountain region, with evidence in archaeological sites dating back to 3000 BC. The Spanish introduced the vegetable to Asia in the 17th century. Cultivation and production continued to spread throughout South and Central America into Mexico where it is harvested from November to May. There is also jicama production in Texas, Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Jicama looks similar to a potato, with a rough brown exterior and crisp white interior. Though the interior texture may resemble a potato, jicama has a more broad palate of nutrients. Even with its slightly sweet taste, jicama has more complex carbohydrates and fiber, making it a good carb choice for someone monitoring their blood sugar. Jicama is also a good source of Vitamin C and numerous B vitamins, as well as the minerals magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and calcium. Inulin, a type of fiber found in jicama, works as a prebiotic to support gut health, and also works with minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium to support bone health.
When choosing jicama at the store, look for those that are firm and solid for their size. Avoid cracked or discolored vegetables and consider that any vegetable over 4 pounds may be more fibrous than desired. Once peeled, jicama make a nice addition to a salad with the crunchy texture and neutral flavor. They can also be cooked like a potato in mashed or fried methods or even in a stir-fry as a water chestnut substitute. A common snack south of the border is to cut jicama into sticks (like French fries) and eat raw with chili powder and lime juice. The salad recipe below adds those southwest flavors to a colorful array of vegetables, resulting in a dish that is pleasing to the eyes and the palate!
Jicama and Black Bean Salad
(makes 10 servings)
1 small jicama, peeled and diced – about 1 cup
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper (seeds removed)
1 can (15-ounces) black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup frozen corn
¼ cup mashed avocado
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper, if desired
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Nutrition information: Calories: 88, Total Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: .7g, Sodium: 65mg, Carbohydrates: 10.2g, Fiber: 2.9g, Protein: 2g
Recipe adapted from Iowa State University Spend Smart Eat Smart, analyzed by verywellfit.com