Jicama, A Buried Treasure
Picking up a few things in my hometown grocery store, Jade Foods, the other day (for a new blog recipe) I was elated to discover it is getting a fresh update in its produce section, deli and cashier lanes. Can’t tell you how exciting this is for our small town of Hamburg, Arkansas! The third generation family owned store is not only the place we Hamburgarians buy our groceries, but where we connect with friends and neighbors and catch up on the latest news. It’s always been a clean, convenient and friendly place to shop, but now with its fresh look and appliances I want to visit every day!
Along with the face lift I discovered lots of new items. One was a familiar looking root vegetable in the produce section. Kind of like a squashed potato. I asked the lady who was stocking the shelves what it was and she said they call it a Mexican potato (or jicama, pronounced “hik-ka-ma”). She read what was on the label saying it can be served raw with certain seasonings or with a dip. I decided to take one home and give it a try. The first thing I did was text my friend Maria, who is from Mexico, and asked what is the best way to prepare it. She told me the most common way to eat it is raw with lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper or with a seasoning mix called Tajin. I quickly learned the best way to peel it is not with a potato peeler, but a knife. The peelings are not edible. It sliced easily and the texture is similar to a hard pear. It has a mild flavor, slightly sweet but very fresh, crunchy and watery. It tasted good by itself, but I felt it needed a little more flavoring. I first added fresh lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. I like the splash of the lemon with the salt and then the “bam” of the cayenne. I tried it with the Tajin that has a salty, chili powder and lime taste that was good also, but I took what I liked about both and seasoned it with lemon juice, salt and chili powder. I like it best this way. It kept well in the refrigerator (the white flesh will not turn dark) and I snacked on it as a guilt-free, healthy treat that was filling and refreshing throughout the day.
Ironically, the above ground part of this plant (a long vine that forms bean pods) is poisonous while the underground tubers are exceptionally nutritious. Isn’t this about how life is? We live on this beautiful earth God made that is so full of its problems (poison) because of man’s poor choices, but because of God’s mercy and grace there’s always a hidden treasure for us if we seek Him (dig) for it. Well, that could preach, but back to the jicama plant. The bulb should not be refrigerated and if fresh, can be kept up to a month in a cool, dry place. They are full of potassium and vitamin C. They contain iron, magnesium, manganese, are high in fiber and low in calories, saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. They are starchy, but have about half as many carbohydrates as potatoes. They contain prebiotics which support a healthy gut and can boost the immune system. It is said they can stabilize blood sugar, help in weight loss and in lowering blood pressure. Almost sounds too good to be true! Definitely worth including in the diet to find out.
After reading up on it I discovered other ways to prepare this vegetable. So I got busy. I chopped it into small bite-size chunks and tossed them into a salad dressed with a vinaigrette which made a healthy salad even healthier. It was very good. I sliced and roasted them in the oven after pouring a little olive oil over them just like I do with potatoes and other vegetables. It tasted like roasted sweet potatoes, one of my favorites. I stirred them into a cool fruit salad with an added spicy seasoning of chili powder. The crunch of the jicama and sweet fruit with the citrus, cool mint and bit of heat made a pleasant combination that kept my taste buds busy. Here’s how I made the fruit salad:
I used whatever fruit I had in the refrigerator, equal parts of diced cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, sliced strawberries and blueberries. Then I added the diced jicama.
To that I added about eight shakes of chili powder, a big pinch of salt, some agave nectar to sweeten, the juice of 1 lime, and last but not least some chopped mint. Chilling the salad in the refrigerator before serving is best. So good!
There really are endless ways of preparing this gift of God from across the gulf that is super healthful. You can cut them into chips for dipping or even add them to a dip itself for chips, crackers or veggies. They can even be made into a slaw or cooked in soups and stews. I am looking forward to having some fun using them in some Cajun recipes, too. For sure I am going to keep them on hand for healthy snacking. I hope you pick one up at your friendly neighborhood grocery store and let me know how you like them best.
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss