What the heck is a jicama?
Ji-what-a? Pronounced hee-kah-ma, this hearty root veggie is also known as a yam bean. It is part of the legume family and grows on vines in Central American, South Asian, and the Caribbean. It has a rough brownish outside resembling a turnip, but once you peel off the skin, the inside is crisp and white like an apple. If you’ve never tasted jicama, imagine if an apple and a potato made a baby – not too sweet and just the right amount of crunch.
In terms of nutritional value jicama is about 86–90% water, but still has many benefits. Jicama is high in inulin which has zero calories, doesn’t metabolize in the body and is a prebiotic (also found in many root vegetables, like onion, dandelion root, burdock root, leeks, and asparagus- whfoods). Prebiotic is essentially a fancy word for fibre, because fibre helps probiotics do their thang in the gut – promoting good bacteria that helps your colon stay happy! Jicama is high in soluble fiber and low on the glycemic index which helps manage cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. It’s not notably high in many vitamins or minerals with the exception of the super antioxidant vitamin C, which is good for skin health, cardiovascular health, heart health, energy levels, preventing free radical damage, decreasing bad cholesterol and supporting healthy immune function, to name a few.
Jicamas can be stored just like potatoes. They have a good shelf life and keep well in a cool, dry, dark place for about 3-4 weeks.
Unlike other roots vegetables, when preparing Jicama don’t eat the skin! The root (which we eat) is generally safe, but the jicama plant produces seeds containing rotenone which is lethal to humans in large doses and commonly used as an insecticide. So to be safe, always rinse and peel the jicama before consuming.
After rinsing and peeling there are lots of different ways to use jicama. You can cut it into cubes, thick long pieces or thin slices with a peeler. Jicama can be used raw or cooked in salads, slaws, stir-frys and so much more!
When I was in Bali pretty much all I ate was raw, raw, raw – juices, smoothies and salads galore. If anyone’s been to Ubud, you know what I’m talking about, a raw vegan foodie’s paradise. I don’t happen to be raw or vegan, but I quickly hopped on the raw bandwagon and started to feel like I was walking on clouds like all the other Ubudians. At lunchtime I often ventured over to a little cafe that served up the most scrumptious jicama fries… here’s my imitation.
Raw Jicama Fries
- 1/2 large jicama
- 1 tbsp melted coconut
- tsp lime juice
- pinch of rock salt
- 1/4 tsp paprika or chilli powder (or half and half of each)
Rinse, peel and chop the jicama into long matchstick slices. Toss in a bowl with the remaining dressing ingredients and serve.