Juicy jicama root makes food exciting

April 24, 1996|By Edwige Lee | Edwige Lee,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

It has an odd-sounding name, but the bulbous jicama root makes recipes anything but ordinary.

While related lettuce and broccoli wilt in a marinated salad, jicama keeps its firmness while it absorbs flavorful spices. Even in cooked dishes like quick stir-fries, jicama stands at attention.

In Mexico, a country that grows a lot of jicama, a favorite margarita accompaniment is made with sliced jicama fingers sprinkled with lime juice, salt and chili powder, writes Elizabeth Schneider in "Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables: a Commonsense Guide."

And at only 50 calories per cup, raw sliced jicama is a great low-calorie replacement for chips when served with dips.

However it's used, jicama, actually the root of a vine that produces poisonous beans, must be peeled first. Simply cut the root into quarters or smaller, manageable pieces. Use a sharp paring knife to pull the pieces of the tough outer skin away, grasping it between your thumb and the knife.

Peel jicama just before using it, says Sharon Tyler Herbst in "The Food Lover's Tiptionary." A 1-pound root will yield about 3 cups chopped.

Jicama shapes vary from globe-like to carrot-shaped, although round ones are more common in U.S. markets, write Kathleen Mayes and Sandra Gottfried in "Roots: A Vegetarian Bounty."

Choose a jicama that is unblemished, although ruddy patches are normal. Use a scratch test to help you choose a juicy root, Ms. Schneider suggests. Scratch the skin with a fingernail to expose the flesh. A perfect jicama will have thin skin and very juicy flesh underneath.

You can store whole jicama in the refrigerator crisper bin for up to three weeks. Cut jicama should be used within a week but can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated to keep it fresh.

Jicama salsa

Makes 16 servings

1/2 small jicama, peeled

1 small onion

1/2 large green pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup cilantro

2 ounces canned green chilies

2 peeled garlic cloves

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

Process all ingredients except tomatoes in a food processor to a chunky consistency. Or chop all ingredients except tomatoes in small cubes and combine.

Add diced tomatoes and stir to mix.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

(From "Roots: A Vegetarian Bounty," by Kathleen Mayes and Sandra Gottfried [Woodbridge Press, $14.95])

Nutritional information per serving: calories, 16.3; protein, .648 grams; carbohydrates, 3.61 grams; total fat, .147 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; saturated fat, .022 grams; dietary fiber, .949 grams; sodium, 95.9 milligrams; sugar, .114 grams; vitamin A, 0 retinol equivalents; vitamin C, 11.9 milligrams; calcium, 16.8 milligrams; iron, .391 milligrams.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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