What’s that food?

Look around the root vegetable section of your grocery store and you may come across this versatile vegetable. Jicama is also known as Mexican turnip, sweet turnip, Mexican potato, or Mexican yam bean and is, quite obviously from those names, native to Mexico.

The ‘Pachyrhizus erosus’ is from the bean family and the vine grows best in climates with tropical temperatures as it requires at least nine months without frost to guarantee a good harvest. The heaviest root of a jicama on record weighed 23 kilograms and was found in the Philippines in 2010. The vine itself produces bean pods that look similar to lima beans, however, those pods contain poisonous seeds—the poison is called rotenone and is often used as an insecticide. The portion of the jicama plant that is edible is the tuber or root.

Jicama is a root vegetable //Photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

Spaniard explorers first brought the jicama plant from Mexico to the Philippines and it has since spread to most of Asia, being grown in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, as well as other Asian countries.

Jicama can be eaten both raw and cooked. Yellowish beige on the outside, the inside of the root is creamy white and its texture is reminiscent of raw potato or pear. The flavour has been compared to raw apple or green beans, and once the raw tuber is peeled, it can be diced or sliced and then dipped in lime or lemon juice and eaten as is. It is often used in salads, or the raw slices are dipped in salsa and eaten like chips or crackers.

Jicama can be a tasty, crunchy snack //Photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

Cooked jicama is common in stir-fries or soups and is often paired with spices like chili powder, cilantro, and ginger. You can also find it marinated in lime or lemon juice and served as a condiment. A good source of vitamin C, jicama is high in fiber and low in protein. It should be stored in cool, dry temperatures but do not store in your refrigerator.

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

View All Posts