Jicama (HEE-kah-ma) is an edible root that resembles a turnip. It has thin brown skin and crisp, juicy, white flesh that’s mild in flavor (think of a cross between a water chestnut and a pear). Jicama is native to Mexico, where it’s sometimes referred to as yam bean, Mexican turnip, or Mexican potato. The plant is a member of the bean family, and its vine can grow up to 20 feet in length. (The root is the only edible portion of the plant, though; its leaves and seeds contain a mild toxin.) In Central America, jicama is often sold by street vendors, eaten raw, and seasoned with lemon or lime juice and chili powder.
Find jicama year-round in the produce section of many supermarkets and Latin American markets. Select firm, dry jicama roots. Skin should not appear shriveled, bruised, or blemished.
Remove skin with a sharp vegetable peeler, then cut the white flesh into cubes or strips, according to your recipe. Because jicama does not brown or become soggy after cutting, it makes a nice addition to crudité platters and salads. It’s also good added raw to sushi rolls in place of cucumber for crunch, or included in stir-fries, as it performs best with quick-cooking methods that allow it to maintain crispness.
Keep jicama unpeeled in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.