Food Adventures with Connie

Jicama

At the prompting of my youngest, this week’s topic is jicama, Pachyrhizus erosus, also known as Mexican yam bean and Mexican turnip.

half-jicamaNative to Mexico, jicama was introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish in the 17th century.  It has since spread throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands (Source: Origin, Evolution, and Early Dispersal of Root and Tuber Crops).

Jicama is about 90% water, with trace amounts of protein and lipids, and only 38 calories per 100 grams.  It is high in dietary fiber and a very good source of vitamin C (Source: USDA ARS National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28).  Its characteristic flavor, sometimes described as a savory apple, comes from the oligofructose inulin which is a prebiotic.

Jicama is most often served raw, though it does hold its shape when gently cooked and would work as a substitute for water chestnuts (similar texture and mild flavor).  It does not brown when exposed to air the way apples and potatoes do, so it’s a great addition to a veggie tray.

I decided to try jicama a couple of different ways.  That’s one of the great things about this vegetable, its versatility.  The first was an Apple Jicama Coleslaw (recipe here and video of its preparation here).

Apple Jicama Coleslaw

Ingredients:

  • ½ small head green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • ½ jicama, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 Fuji apple, sliced into matchsticks
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • Sriracha sauce (add to taste – I used about ¾ teaspoon)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
preparing-produce-for-the-slaw

Slice the apple and jicama into matchsticks using a mandoline, as shown here.

Directions:

Whisk the mayonnaise, pineapple juice, sugar, sriracha sauce, salt and pepper until smooth.  Toss with cabbage, jicama, and apple.  Chill for an hour.  Stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

apple-jicama-coleslaw

Jicama Chips

Then I made jicama chips by slicing the other half of the peeled jicama with the mandoline.  (My mandoline didn’t slice the jicama as thin as I would have liked it to, which contributed to the chips being underdone in the center.  Next time I make them I will slice the chips using the slicing side of my box grater.)

Place the sliced jicama on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spray with cooking spray, sprinkle with house seasoning (1 cup sea salt, ¼ cup black pepper, and ¼ cup granulated garlic – keep in a sealed container in the spice cupboard), and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.  You’ll want to start checking them at 15 minutes to make sure they’re not over-done as ovens vary.

jicama-chips-before-and-after-baking

Jicama chips before and after baking for 20 minutes.

In the Garden

Pachyrhizus-angulatus-plate

By Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.) – Flora de Filipinas […] Gran edicion […] [Atlas II]., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=977739

You won’t find locally grown jicama at your farmers’ market and even though nurseries will sell you plants, you probably won’t find much success producing the tubers in your garden (unless you live in Florida, maybe – Source: NRCS Plant Profile: Pachyrhizus erosus), and there’s a reason.  It is a tropical legume that does best in the climate of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.  Trials in California have concluded that a long, warm growing season under relatively short day length is required to initiate good quality fleshy root development.  Otherwise, you’ll get luxurious vine growth with prolific flowering and pod production but with low quality fibrous taproots (Source: UC Small Farm Program).  It could be an interesting addition to your landscape though as the vine grows up to 15 feet in a season and therefore could be used to cover an arbor.  The leaves, flowers, vines, mature pods and seeds are poisonous (one of the sources of rotenone) so keep them away from pets and small children.

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