There are rumors in the air that 2018 might be a certain root vegetable’s year. Already on the up-and-up, there’s no stopping its conquest of recipes, dinner tables, grocery aisles, and the future of fresh produce. Once an unsung vegetable variety, incognito in mainstream United States grocery stores, jicama—or yam bean, Mexican turnip, and Mexican potato if you’re fancy—is stepping into the limelight and taking center stage in culinary masterpieces left and right. And while many of us might be asking “but what can I do with jicama?” a better question might be “what can’t I do with jicama?”
Native to Mexico, jicama is also grown throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, where it is a popular snack. Often sold via street vendors, locals typically enjoy this quick treat raw and seasoned with lemon or lime juice and chili powder. Its distinct crunch—not lost when roasted or sautéed—boasts a texture somewhere between an apple and a water chestnut, inspiring home chefs to use jicama as a base or addition to slaws, relishes, salsas, salads, stir fries, egg rolls, and more. In more recent years, jicama is starting to pop up as a substitute for tortillas, chips, and other starch-heavy foods.
Preparing jicama, however, can be a challenge. Those familiar with the root recommend peeling its thick skin with a knife rather than a vegetable peeler, in order to preserve the white flesh inside.
Starchy, juicy, sweet, and nutty, jicama is also an up-and-coming superfood, nutrient-rich and health-forward. Jicama is known to contain prebiotic inulin, which creates a good environment for probiotic bacteria to thrive, benefiting gut health. Jicama is also said to boost the immune system, build strong bones, help circulation, lower blood pressure, improve brain function, and increase energy levels. Rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, jicama contains natural sugars and fiber and remains low in calories, as well.
Available year-round in most grocery stores and Latin American, Asian, and specialty produce markets, look for firm jicama roots often scarred or scabby in appearance for a delicious vegetable to bring home and adorn dinner tables with. Whether you doctor it up, or take a page out of locals’ books and just enjoy it sliced and raw for dipping, jicama is on-trend this year and ready to take over as the reigning vegetable supreme.