Do you know what this is?
You really should! This is Jicama, one of our absolute favourite vegetables – we always have one in the fridge… and most people don’t know even what it is! It is refreshing, crunchy, slightly sweet, and easy to prepare… you have to try it!
We discovered this vegetable in California, where it is often used in Mexican salads to add a sweet crunch. After learning it was ‘Jicama’ (pronounced ‘hic-ah-mah’), we tried buying it at the grocery store. Here in Singapore it is sometimes called ‘local turnip’, ‘bangkwang’, or ‘yam bean’. They are cheap and plentiful here, and we love it.
A jicama looks like a pale brown turnip (they can be small or huge), and are sometimes sold dirty, like a potato. Once you wash it off, you use a sharp knife to slice off the outer skin. The whole inside is pure white, crispy, and juicy. You can cut it into sticks, grate it, cube it, or cook it! There is no strong taste, just a slight nutty sweetness, and it is fantastic in salads and salsas. We love it raw, when it is cold and refreshing, and it is great alongside carrot sticks with dip.
We had a ‘Jicama dinner’ the other night, eating it raw in a salad, and grating and cooking it into light ‘jicama hashbrowns’ with eggs on the side. Here are the recipes.
1 medium jicama, peeled and sliced into chunks.
1 cucumber, sliced into chunks
1 bell pepper, sliced into chunks
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup dried goji berries
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- Grate a medium jicama, shake a little salt in, and leave to strain (they can be very juicy!)
- Chop and cook half an onion in a little oil.
- Combine jicama with browned onion in the pan, and sprinkle in some salt and pepper.
- Cook until it starts to brown. (If you try to flip it instead of stir, it will get some more crispy parts.)
- Eat! This is very light and tasty. You could even use half quantity of real potato if you wanted your jicama hashbrown to be more filling and potato-like.
We would love to grow these ourselves some day, but would definitely need tropical weather. They cultivated them originally in South America, and they need heat and long days to grow. It is actually a legume, and grows like a vine. The roots grow into tubers under the ground, and these are harvested when they are young and sweet so we can eat them (before they get gigantic and turn woody)!
In Melbourne we have only seen jicama in the big fruit and veggie markets in the city. The supplier we saw shipped them down from Darwin, and they had a very high price. We were sad to see our favourite vegetable treated as an uncommon luxury food. I wonder what could be done to increase the public demand and awareness about such a fantastic item, and encourage more farmers to grow and supply it for more affordable prices? If you live in a place where jicama is easily available, count yourself lucky – you absolutely have to try it!
More ways to eat it: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/top-10-ways-to-enjoy-jicama
Where to buy a seedling: (in Australia) http://www.daleysfruit.com.au/Jicama,-.htm